Dutch firms must seek licence before exporting chip gear: Gov’t

Announcement of new rules comes amid pressure by US on allies to curb sales of high-tech components to China.

The Dutch government has announced new rules restricting exports of certain semiconductor equipment, a move that comes amid pressure by the United States on its allies to curb China’s ability to produce advanced chips.

Under the new rules, which are expected to go into effect on September 1, companies that make advanced chipmaking equipment will be required to seek a licence before they can export it.

“We have taken this step in the interest of our national security,” Trade Minister Liesje Schreinemacher said on Friday, adding that such equipment may have military applications.

Schreinemacher added that only a “very limited” number of companies and product models would be affected. China was not named.

The announcement is the result of a reported high-level agreement between the US and two allies with strong chip equipment industries – the Netherlands and Japan – to tighten restrictions as Washington seeks to hobble Beijing’s ability to make its own chips.

In late March, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said it would impose export controls on six categories of equipment used in chip manufacturing, including cleaning, deposition, lithography and etching. It did not specify China as the target of those measures taking effect in July, saying equipment makers will need to seek export permission for all regions.

Dutch officials have previously said the new controls address national security concerns rather than favour US chip-related companies, according to reports.

China, which has set a strategic goal of becoming 70 percent self-sufficient in semiconductors in 2025, said in March it “firmly opposes” the new Dutch export restrictions, calling it the result of “bullying and hegemony” by the West.

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Licence requirement

ASML, a Dutch company that is a key equipment supplier to computer chip makers, said it would not change its financial guidance as a result of the new rules.

The lithography giant repeated a March statement indicating the top section of models of its second most advanced “DUV” product line, which are used to manufacture computer chips, would need a licence.It named its 2000 series “and subsequent” models and said it did not expect the rules to have a material impact on its financial forecasts. ASML’s most advanced EUV machines have never been shipped to China.

“We still have to do a detailed review, but based on our preliminary assessment, we don’t expect the Dutch regulation that has been published today to have a meaningful impact on our previously reported outlook,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

ASML’s shares were down 3.6 percent after the news while smaller rival ASM International dipped 1.8 percent.

The US in October imposed export restrictions on shipments of US chipmaking tools to China from companies like Lam Research and Applied Materials on national security grounds and lobbied other countries with key suppliers to enact similar restrictions.

China slammed the move at a time of heightening of tensions between the two countries that has spanned everything from 5G equipment and alleged spy balloons to relations over Taiwan.