Dutch curb chip equipment exports amid U.S. pressure

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government on Friday announced new rules restricting exports of certain advanced semiconductor equipment, a move that comes amid U.S. pressure on its allies to curb sales of high-tech components to China.

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

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

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

The rules, which will require companies that make advanced chipmaking equipment to seek a licence before they can export it, are expected to go into effect on Sept. 1.

A technical document specifying which equipment will require a licence accompanied the announcement.

The introduction of the list is the result of a high-level agreement between the U.S. 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.

ASML, Europe’s largest technology company, 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.

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

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

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

Reuters reported on Thursday the U.S. may introduce additional rules next month.

Schreinemacher said she expected about 20 licence applications on an annual basis, representing a “limited part of the total product portfolio of the companies that fall under this rule”.

ASML has been restricted from selling EUV machines without a licence under an international agreement known as the Wassenaar Arrangement, but the Dutch rules now make clear that EUV machines also fall under the Dutch rules.

European Union countries share a common trade policy and generally use the Wassenaar Arrangement to determine which exports are restricted on security grounds.

The new Dutch list published may later be adopted by other European countries or added to the EU list, though few other European countries export high-end chipmaking equipment.


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