A senior Dutch minister has defended the country’s deep trade ties with China and vowed not to restrict high-tech exports too much as the Biden administration pushes its European partners to toughen their stance on Beijing.
Micky Adriaansens, the economy minister, said the Netherlands remained “very positive” about its relationship with China, saying Dutch companies operating there were boosting innovation and trade .
As the United States pushes its partners to tighten controls on exports of high-end semiconductor equipment to China, she insisted that the Netherlands and Europe “should have their own strategy “.
“We need to think about this – what are the risks of doing business with China in relation to specific products and value chains,” she told the Financial Times. “In general, in the Netherlands, we are very positive and we have always had a good relationship with China. We do a lot of business with China. Many Dutch companies are working there.
China accounts for 11% of Dutch imports, just behind Germany, and around 5% of exports.
The minister said the relationship “really kickstarts innovation and trade, which is fundamental for Europe. We should cherish that too.
The remarks appear at odds with comments by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week, who said he saw “growing convergence” between the United States and its allies on China. Blinken’s comments come in the wake of the US decision in October to impose drastic export controls intended to slow China’s ability to grow and prevent it from obtaining advanced semiconductors that could be used for military purposes.
The Netherlands is home to ASML and ASM International, two major global chip equipment manufacturing companies.
The United States is now trying to convince the Netherlands and Japan, another major player in the global chipmaking industry, to enter into a trilateral agreement that would impose new restrictions on China obtaining tools for making chips.
US sanctions, which prevent companies from sending many US-made products to China, have already hit Dutch industry. ASMI said this week they would affect around 40% of sales to China, which accounts for 16% of the group’s revenue.
Adriaansens declined to comment on the likely timing of semiconductor talks, saying it was “not a simple yes or no” but a matter of considering many aspects of a process. very complex production. “You have to be very clear about which aspect of the production process is the most important issue as far as China is concerned,” she explained.
“The Netherlands and Europe should have their own strategy,” she said when asked about the US talks. At the same time, they had to be aware of the risks associated with “specific technologies”. “You don’t want to overdo it, but on the other hand, you don’t want your doors unlocked where security is the first issue – it’s a balancing act,” she added. .
She also warned that it might not be possible to prevent China from acquiring advanced technology. “The development cycle goes very fast in China. You don’t have to be naive. »
Adriaansens said separate U.S. moves to provide sweeping green technology subsidies to domestic companies were of concern to The Hague.
The EU has said much of the $369 billion in tax relief and support in the Cut Inflation Act is discriminatory and violates global trade rules, and is in talks with Washington.
Adriaansens said: “The Inflation Reduction Act has an impact on industry and the economy in the Netherlands and the EU as a whole.” Combined with falling energy prices, it would deter investors and harm the competitiveness of European companies.
The West should have a level playing field and “the same set of rules”, the minister added. She compared it with the next World Cup match with the United States. “We would like to have the same goal size and the same lines on the pitch in both halves.”