A Washington official delivered the most direct comments from U.S. authorities to date, acknowledging agreements with Japan and the Netherlands that require those countries to impose new restrictions on the export of chipmaking tools to China.
“We can’t talk about this deal right now,” Commerce Undersecretary Don Graves said on the sidelines of an event in Washington. “But of course you can talk to our friends in Japan and the Netherlands.”
A deal had been finalized, Bloomberg News reported on Friday, two sources with knowledge of the matter later confirmed to Reuters.
In October, the United States imposed sweeping export restrictions on chip-making tools to China in an attempt to thwart Beijing’s ability to expand its chip industry and boost its military capabilities.
For the restrictions to work, Washington needs to get on board the Netherlands and Japan, home to major chipmakers ASML and Tokyo Electron, among others.
The Commerce Department said in an email that it would continue to coordinate with foreign allies on export controls, calling it a “priority.” “We recognize that multilateral control is more effective than unilateral control.
Officials from the Netherlands and Japan discussed a wide range of issues in Washington on Friday in talks chaired by White House national security adviser Jack Sullivan.
Asked on Friday whether a deal on semiconductors had been discussed, U.S. President Joe Biden said: “Yes, we discussed a lot of things, but a lot of them were personal.”
China’s semiconductor industry has become a key target of US export restrictions. Beijing has spent money nurturing its domestic industry, but its manufacturing plants, known as fabs, still rely heavily on foreign-made equipment.
SMIC is China’s largest fab, producing chips used in the auto industry, Internet of Things devices and some smartphones.
The US added SMIC to its Entity List in 2020 – effectively banning Dutch company ASML from supplying SMIC with EUV lithography machines.
YMTC is China’s sole player in the global Nand memory market — a hypercompetitive industry long dominated by a handful of U.S. and South Korean companies. It designs and manufactures chips and was added to the US Entity List in 2022.
YMTC is launching a chip with 232 layers of memory cells in 2022, bringing it closer to rivals such as South Korea’s Samsung. Experts say the equipment export restrictions could derail further efforts.
Changxin Memory is the only major manufacturer in China that designs and manufactures Dram chips. Like Nand memory, this field has long been dominated by a few companies in the United States, South Korea, and Taiwan.