Dutch Shipments to China See Significant Surge as EU-China Trade Declines
In a surprising turn of events, Dutch shipments to China experienced a substantial increase of 29.5% in October, despite an overall decline in trade between the European Union (EU) and China. This surge in Dutch exports is believed to be a result of Chinese stockpiling of advanced chipmaking equipment, particularly from ASML, before new export controls take effect in January.
Chinese customs data released on Tuesday revealed the rise in Dutch shipments, providing further evidence of China’s efforts to acquire high-tech chipmaking equipment. While trade between the EU and China experienced a decline, the Netherlands managed to buck the trend with a significant increase in exports.
ASML, Europe’s most valuable tech company and a leader in lithography machines used to print patterns on microchips, appears to be a key player in this trade surge. Analysts predict that detailed data to be released later this month will demonstrate a substantial surge in imports of ASML’s advanced photolithography machines.
China’s increasing imports from the Netherlands are seen as a result of a buying spree of ASML machinery as Beijing aims to secure these products before new export control measures take effect. The United States has been pressuring the Netherlands to restrict shipments of advanced tools to China due to concerns over potential military implications. The Dutch government implemented restrictions on shipments, effective from September 1, 2023, with a grace period until January 1, 2024.
Chinese companies appear to be using this grace period to stock up on chipmaking equipment as they face the threat of US measures that could limit their access to technology critical for their development. ASML’s own quarterly report indicates that China accounted for 46% of its sales in the third quarter of this year, a significant increase from previous quarters.
Despite the surge in exports, it is important to note that these figures may represent the clearing of existing orders rather than new purchases. ASML’s strong backlog of orders provides a solid foundation despite uncertainties in the short term. However, these statistics demonstrate that China has been outspending other countries in securing chipmaking equipment, especially considering the restrictions on more expensive EUV equipment.
The recent update to US export controls further complicates the international business landscape and could hinder efforts to service the Chinese market. These new rules expand export controls on AI chips, supercomputing, and semiconductor manufacturing equipment, signaling US dominance in the global chips market.
While Dutch shipments to China have witnessed a significant surge, overall EU-China trade fell by 7.5% in October compared to the previous year. China’s exports to the EU declined by 10.6%, while imports showed a more modest decrease of 1.3%.
In conclusion, the surge in Dutch shipments to China highlights China’s effort to stockpile advanced chipmaking equipment ahead of export controls. ASML’s lithography machines are at the forefront of this trade surge, with China making significant purchases as it faces potential restrictions on technology access. These developments have further strained EU-China trade relations, particularly as the United States continues its efforts to assert dominance in the global chips market.