The United States shouldn’t expect the Netherlands to unquestionably adopt its approach to China export restrictions, a senior Dutch official warned, signalling a potential obstacle to the Biden administration’s trade fight.
“The Netherlands will not copy the American measures one-to-one,” Dutch Foreign Trade Minister Liesje Schreinemacher said in an interview with newspaper NRC published on Friday. “We make our own assessment – and we do this in consultation with partner countries such as Japan and the US.”
The comments marked the first time Dutch officials have publicly outlined their stance on the issue. The Biden administration is pushing for a multilateral agreement to impose restrictions on China, aiming to keep advanced chip technologies away from the country – and its military.
Schreinemacher’s statement highlighted the significant challenges the US is facing in persuading allies to join its campaign. While the Netherlands and Japan share many of the US’s security concerns, the two countries also see China as a major market that they would like to maintain access to.
The Netherlands are key to the struggle because the country’s ASML Holding NV is one of a handful of companies that dominate the market for semiconductor-manufacturing equipment. Its peers include Applied Materials Inc., Lam Research Corp. and KLA Corp. in the US, and Tokyo Electron Ltd. in Japan.
Without getting specific, Schreinemacher said that the Netherlands is likely to introduce certain export controls on China by itself. The Dutch government needs more time to decide on potential new rules, she said.
“We already have restrictions in our export licensing policy. I can imagine that we will look at semiconductors and the chip market with a more critical eye,” the minister told NRC. “We are working on that shift and I think there is a chance that it will progress.”
ASML is already restricted from selling China its extreme ultraviolet lithography machines, which are needed to make the most cutting-edge chips. But the Dutch company is still allowed to offer less sophisticated products to Chinese customers.
In early October, the Biden administration unveiled sweeping measures aimed at limiting China’s abilities to secure advanced artificial intelligence chips and semiconductor manufacturing equipment, roiling the US$580 billion global chip industry.
US chip-equipment makers have indicated the new rules could erase billions of dollars in sales, while ASML and Tokyo Electron have said they expect a smaller impact.
Senior US officials – including Alan Estevez, the undersecretary of commerce for industry and security – are travelling to the Netherlands this month to discuss export controls. But an immediate accord isn’t expected to come out of the talks, Bloomberg News has reported.
Meanwhile, Beijing is working to ensure other countries don’t cave to US demands. In a Group of 20 summit meeting on Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to avoid disrupting global trade.
“We must oppose the politicisation of economic and trade issues and maintain the stability of the global industrial chain and supply chain,” Xi told Rutte. Rutte also visited South Korea this week to discuss tech issues and deepen chip ties.
Source : South China Morning Post