Globally critical chip firm tells U.S. staff to stop servicing China customers after Biden export curbs
Dutch firm ASML makes one of the most important pieces of machinery required to manufacture the most advanced chips in the world. U.S. chip curbs have left companies, including ASML, scrambling to figure out what the rules mean in practice.
Emmanuel Dunand | AFP | Getty Images
ASML, one of the world’s most important semiconductor toolmakers, told U.S. employees to stop servicing Chinese customers, as Washington’s latest export restrictions begin to hit the global chip industry.
The Dutch firm said in a memo that any U.S. staff, including American citizens, green card holders and foreign nationals living in the U.S., “are prohibited from providing certain services to advanced fabs in China.”
ASML’s U.S. employees “must refrain — either directly or indirectly — from servicing, shipping, or providing support for any customers in China until further notice, while ASML is actively assessing which particular fabs are affected by this restriction.” A fab is a another name for a chip manufacturing plant.
The ASML memo, which was circulating on social media, was confirmed as authentic by a spokesperson for the company.
ASML is one of the most critical players in the semiconductor supply chain because it produces a machine required to make the most advanced chips in the world. The Netherlands-headquartered firm is the only company in the world that makes these extreme ultraviolet lithography machines, which are used by the likes of TSMC, the most advanced chip manufacturer in the world.
Last week, the U.S. government enacted sweeping rules that aimed to cut off China from key chips and semiconductor manufacturing equipment.
As part of those rules, “U.S. persons” that support the development or production of certain chips in China, including those for military uses, require a license to do so.
The rule appears quite wide-ranging and companies are scrambling to figure out what it means in practice.
“We are working diligently to evaluate the new regulations and their impact on ASML,” the company said in its memo.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has also granted exemptions from its new curbs to some of the biggest chipmakers in the world.
TSMC has obtained a one-year license to continue buying American chipmaking equipment and send it to its manufacturing facility in China, the Nikkei reported Friday. TSMC’s operations at its Nanjing, China, plant are for less sophisticated chips.
Washington is concerned in particular about China obtaining access for the most advanced chips that can be used in military applications, artificial intelligence or super computing.
TSMC did not respond to a request for comment.
South Korean chipmakers Samsung and SK Hynix have also obtained one-year waivers from the U.S. so they can keep sending equipment to their China factories without getting a license, the Korea Times reported Thursday.
Samsung declined to comment.
SK Hynix confirmed in a statement that the company as well as current suppliers and business partners are authorized “to engage in activities necessary to maintain current production of integrated circuits in China for one year without further licensing requirements.”