Washington policy seeks to freeze out China from semiconductor industry
The head of Europe's second-largest semiconductor equipment maker has accused the United States government of putting pressure on companies in friendly countries to help enact its tough export policies against China.
ASMI is second only to another Dutch company, ASML, in terms of chip production in Europe, and around 16 percent of its overall revenue comes from China.
The Netherlands tech sector has long been of particular interest to China, and for that reason, the U.S. as well. As long ago as July 2021 the Wall Street Journal was reporting that China was keen to buy machines produced by ASML and used by the likes of Intel and Samsung to make chips for a variety of uses.
But, the newspaper said, the White House had asked the Dutch government to limit sales on the grounds of national security, which it said was the continuation of a policy stance first adopted by former president Donald Trump.
ASMI has a production facility in Arizona, which makes it vulnerable to the interests of U.S. lobbying, and ahead of a visit by U.S. commerce export chief Alan Estevez and White House National Security Council Tarun Chhabra to the Netherlands this week, the company's chief executive Benjamin Loh has spoken out about the issue.
He said Washington "needs everybody (to stop supplying hi-tech equipment to China)" and was "putting a lot of pressure... to make sure that the Dutch government and the Japanese government follow as well".
In October, ASMI announced a third quarter revenue increase of 33 percent year on year, to 610 million euros ($607.38 million), somewhat ahead of its own forecast.
In a statement, the company spoke of the importance of the Chinese market, saying "Our equipment sales in China, at 16 percent of our total revenue in the first nine months of 2022, have been a growing part of our business with a strong contribution to group profitability", but warning that the new restrictions being brought in by U.S. President Joe Biden could affect this situation in the future. "China is not a small amount of our business, but at the same time it's not something that will kill us," added Loh.
Ahead of the upcoming trade talks, Dutch Foreign Trade Minister Liesje Schreinemacher has indicated that her country will not necessarily bow to U.S. wishes, telling parliament that the Netherlands had to "defend our own interests", and in a recent newspaper interview, she said they would observe the global chip market with "a more critical eye", but would not just replicate U.S. measures.