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Netherlands announces plans to curb tech exports after US pressure

The Dutch government has announced plans for new export restrictions on technology to make computer chips, following pressure from the United States to restrict Chinese access to the technology.

“The government has come to the conclusion that it is necessary for international and national security to expand the existing export control of specific semiconductor production equipment,” Dutch Foreign Trade Minister Liesje Schreinemacher said in a letter to parliament on Wednesday.

The announcement comes less than two months after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte visited President Joe Biden at the White House and discussed the issue.

The Netherlands, Europe’s premier maker of the machines that help manufacture microchips, has been pushed to impose curbs similar to those announced by Washington last year.

The curbs are expected to affect Dutch-based ASML, Europe’s largest semiconductor tech company.

The Dutch government did not mention the firm directly, but said the restrictions would target Deep Ultraviolet (DUV) lithography, a technique for printing tiny circuits on microchips in which ASML specialises.

The aim of the export controls was to prevent military use, and to protect the Netherlands’ “unique and leading position” in such technologies, the government said.

ASML also makes the even more sophisticated Extreme Ultraviolet (EU) machines, but these are already subject to export curbs under a pact on dual civilian-military tech signed by some 40 countries including the United States and the Netherlands.

The government said it would publish the new regulations “before the summer.”

Chip wars: US faces Dutch pushback on China’s semiconductor curbs

ASML’s reaction

The expected action is the latest effort by the White House to target China’s technology sectors at a time of increasingly fraught relations between the world’s two biggest economies.

In a statement published on its website, ASML said that the new restrictions will apply to its “most advanced deposition and immersion lithography tools.”

“Due to these upcoming regulations, ASML will need to apply for export licences for shipment of the most advanced immersion DUV systems,” the company said, adding that it “will take time for these controls to be translated into legislation and take effect.”

ASML added, “Based on today’s announcement, our expectation of the Dutch government’s licensing policy, and the current market situation, we do not expect these measures to have a material effect on our financial outlook” for 2023.

ASML also said it had not yet received “any additional information about the exact definition” of “most advanced” systems.

But the tech company urged governments in January to be “careful” as it announced a drop in profits amid the growing chip war between Beijing and Washington.

“We need to be careful that instruments that are well-meant don’t come to a consequence that we all feel sorry about,” ASML’s chief executive Peter Wennink said at the time.

Beijing on Tuesday lashed out at the United States, accusing Biden’s administration of stoking tensions including hitting China with a raft of restrictions on technology.

READ MORE: China slams US ‘weaponisation’ of technology after chip sale curbs

Biden admin halts US firms from granting tech to Huawei

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