Former ASML CEO says US-China chip fight will continue

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The recently retired CEO of semiconductor equipment maker ASML said in an interview with Dutch radio station BNR on Saturday that U.S.-China disputes over computer chips are ideological and not based on facts, and they are set to continue.

Wennink left in April after a ten year term at the helm of ASML that saw it become Europe’s largest technology firm. Since 2018, the U.S. has imposed increasing restrictions on what tools the company can export to China, its second-largest market after Taiwan, citing security concerns. Most recently the U.S. has sought to keep the company from servicing equipment already sold to Chinese customers.

“These kind of discussions are not being conducted on the basis of facts or content or numbers or data but on the basis of ideology,” Wennink said.

“You can think whatever you want about that, but we’re a business where the interests of your stakeholders have to be managed in balance … If ideology cuts straight through that, I have problems with that.”

He said the company has had customers and staff in China for 30 years “so you also have obligations”.

As part of seeking to strike a balance, Wennink said he had lobbied where possible to prevent export restrictions from becoming too tight, and at the same time he had complained to high-ranking Chinese politicians when he felt the company’s intellectual property wasn’t being respected.

“I think in Washington, maybe they sometimes thought, that Mr. Wennink, maybe he’s a friend of China,” he said.

“No. I’m a friend to my customers, to my suppliers, to my employees, to my shareholders.”

He forecast that given geopolitical interests are at stake, the chip war could take decades to play out.

“This is going to go on for a while,” he said.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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