By Woo Jae-yeon
SEOUL, March 15 (Yonhap) -- The Netherlands' decision to join the U.S.-led effort to limit China's access to advanced chipmaking technology was made to safeguard its "national and international security," the country's trade minister said Wednesday.
Last week, the Dutch government announced it planned to impose new restrictions on exports of key semiconductor technology on national security grounds.
The country is home to ASML Holding, Europe's biggest tech company that makes extreme lithography machines, critical in the production of the most advanced semiconductors. Samsung Electronics and SK hynix, the world's two biggest memory chip makers, are among the Dutch tech firm's major clients.
The implementation of additional export curbs is "an important step for our national and international security, and helps us prevent strategic dependencies," Liesje Schreinemacher, the country's minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, told Yonhap News Agency in a written interview.
In an intensifying rivalry between Washington and Beijing, the Biden administration has stepped up efforts to block China from obtaining high-end technologies of the West, particularly in the sectors considered to have great strategic importance, such as semiconductors.
The Dutch minister is currently in South Korea for a three-day visit, leading a large trade mission comprising some 50 companies, to bolster business ties and seek deeper cooperation with Asia's fourth-largest economy in hydrogen, battery technology and semiconductors, among others.
The delegation's visit came four months after South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte agreed to upgrade their ties to a "strategic partnership" and to boost cooperation in semiconductor, nuclear power generation, mobility, smart farming and various tech sectors.
"I believe in open trade, but we shouldn't keep on trading openly with all countries, in all sectors without considering the consequence," she said. "For me, this means spreading supply chains and invest in diversifying our own production in strategic sectors."
The Dutch minister also emphasized the need to foster "a good investment climate" and "boost innovation" in order to continue developing semiconductor technology and to closely cooperate with partners, including South Korea, the United States and Japan, "in order to be effective."
While the Netherlands "does not want to close the door to China," a key trading partner, she said her government has "started to take a more critical look at the country.
"Our basic approach is to be open where it is possible, and protect where it is necessary," she said, adding, "We have been consistent in this, and will continue to work on this together with like-minded partners."
On Tuesday, South Korea and the Netherlands signed seven memorandums of understanding to enhance cooperation on eco-friendly mobility, new renewable energy and various other industry sectors.
She said the trade mission is focusing on cooperation in sustainable and clean energy, in particular, as "the geopolitical developments in the past year and the war in Ukraine have once again shown the need of accelerating the green transition."
The minister cited a project between Hyundai Motor and We Drive Solar, a Dutch company, in the central city of Utrecht, where the two companies built a car charging station, which not only charges electric cars, but also sends energy from the batteries to the local utility grid.
On the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), a tariff on carbon intensive products which Europe is planning to introduce to tackle climate change, she advised Korean companies put more efforts in reducing carbon emissions.
"We as a Dutch government strongly support the CBAM. At the moment, national legislation is being prepared to implement it," she said.
In order to allow businesses to gradually adapt to the new mechanism, she said "The CBAM will be gradually phased in, starting with a transition period from October 2023 until 2026."