US lobbied hard to deny China EUV lithography

January 13, 2020 //By Peter Clarke
US lobbied hard to deny China EUV lithography
The US government pushed hard for a Dutch decision not to renew a "dual-use" license to export an extreme ultraviolet lithography stepper to China, according to a Reuters report.

It was reported in November 2019 that ASML was unable to ship a EUV lithography machine to Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (Shanghai, China) because a required dual-use export license had expired (see ASML delays Chinese delivery of EUV lithography tool).

Dual-use refers to the applicability of technology to both commercial and military applications. Lack of access to EUV lithography semiconductor manufacturing effectively keeps Chinese chip manufacturing capability trapped behind the leading-edge in chip manufacturing. EUVL is used for sub-10nm chip manufacturing. At present Chinese chip companies and firms such as Huawei only have access to leading-edge technology by purchasing chips from the foundry TSMC.

Reuters has reported that US officials up to and including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lobbied the Dutch government from late 2018 through to mid 2019 not to allow the export of a first EUV lithography stepper, although the granting of the export license was within Dutch government's jurisdiction.

Such dual-use exports are covered by the Wassenaar agreement which in 1996 replaced the cold war era Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM). At that time the US and the west were so far ahead of the USSR and China that restrictions were allowed to relax.

Under the Wassenaaar agreement the US can block the export of equipment in which US components make up more than 25 percent of the content. The Reuters report states that in the case of ASML lithography machines this is not the case.

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