Japan restricts exports of chipmaking equipment because it is in line with US restrictions imposed by China

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan said on Friday it would restrict exports of 23 types of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, matching its controls on technology trade with the United States’ push to limit China’s ability to make advanced chips.

Japan, home to major chip equipment manufacturers such as Nikon Corp (7731.T) and Tokyo Electron Ltd (8035.T), did not specify China as a target for the restrictions, saying that manufacturers would need to obtain export permission for all regions.

“We fulfill our responsibility as a technology nation to contribute to international peace and stability,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a news conference.

He said Japan wants to stop using its advanced technology for military purposes and does not have a specific country in mind.

But the decision, which comes before Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi’s weekend visit to Beijing, will be seen as a major victory for the United States, which in October announced sweeping restrictions on access to chip-making technology to slow China’s technological and military progress. .

“Politicizing, exploiting and weaponizing economic and technological issues, and artificially disrupting the stability of global production and supply chains will only harm others and harm themselves,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning at a press briefing when asked about Japan’s new export rules.

The United States needs the cooperation of industrial heavyweights Japan and the Netherlands in order to be effective and to ensure that its companies do not face a competitive disadvantage.

Sources told Reuters earlier that the two countries agreed in January to join the United States in restricting exports to China of equipment that could be used to manufacture sub-14nm chips, but they did not announce the agreement to avoid provoking China.

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A nanometer, or a billionth of a meter, refers to semiconductor manufacturing technology, with fewer nanometers generally meaning more advanced chips.

The Netherlands said this month it plans to restrict the export of chipmaking equipment, such as ASML Holding NV (ASML.AS), which dominates the market for lithography systems used to create microcircuits for chips.

China accused the US of being a “technological hegemon” and urged the Netherlands not to follow suit.

impact

From July, Japan will impose export controls on six categories of equipment used to make chips, including cleaning, deposition, lithography, and etching.

Chinese companies’ will lose access to more products from Japanese companies that produce chip making equipment. And Chinese chip factories (fabs) are mostly focused on mature nodes right now, which shouldn’t have an impact, but we’ll have to see how It happens,” said Stu Randall, who tracks the chip sector in China at Shanghai-based consulting firm Intralink.

The controls are likely to affect equipment made by at least a dozen companies, such as Screen Holdings Co Ltd (7735.T) and Advantest Corp (6857.T), although Minister Nishimura – without elaborating – said he expected a limited impact. on local companies. .

A Nikon spokesperson said sales of two of its lithographic machines would likely be affected, though the impact on earnings is unclear.

“We will continue to comply with any rules and will work to maximize our results within them,” the spokesperson said.

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Tokyo Electron, Advantest and Screen also said they would follow the new export restrictions, but did not say what impact such oversight could have on their business.

Takamoto Suzuki, Marubeni’s head of economic research in China, said the restrictions would be a blow to Japanese equipment makers given the absence of a strong domestic chip market.

“It will undermine the market development of Japanese companies and certainly reduce their competitiveness from an organizational point of view,” said Suzuki.

Japan once dominated chip production but has seen its market share drop to around 10%. However, it is still a major supplier of chip making machinery and semiconductor materials. Tokyo Electron and Screen produces about a fifth of the world’s wafers, while Shin-Etsu Chemical Co Ltd (4063.T) and Sumco Corp (3436.T) produce the most silicon wafers.

“If you take a long-term view, the impact will diminish, with new semiconductor plants starting up in places like the US and Japan,” said Takahiro Shinada, a professor at Tohoku University.

Following the announcement, Nikon stock price rose 0.9%, in line with the broader market (.N225), while Advantest stock closed 2.4% higher. Tokyo Electron and screen have been changed slightly from the day before.

Additional reporting by Tim Kelly, Miho Uranaka, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Mayo Sakoda; Additional reporting by Josh Horowitz and Eduardo Baptista; Edited by Christopher Cushing

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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