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S. Korea, Dutch trade ministers pledge to bolster ties on chips

March 14, 2023 - 16:04 By Jo He-rim

Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong (left) speaks with ASML President Peter Wennink at the Dutch semiconductor production equipment company headquarter in the Netherlands on June 14, 2022. (Samsung Electronics)

Trade ministers of South Korea and the Netherlands on Tuesday agreed to further strengthen bilateral cooperation on various industries, especially in the semiconductors amid growing pressures from the US to curb investment in China.

South Korean Minister for Trade Ahn Duk-geun met with Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Liesje Schreinemacher to exchange views on the two countries' partnership on economic security. They agreed to further strengthen complementary cooperation on the semiconductor sector, the Korean Trade Ministry said.

The Dutch trade minister is visiting Seoul from Monday to Wednesday with a trade mission of some 80 government and industry officials as a follow-up to a summit held in Seoul in November last year between Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.

Advocating for the country’s semiconductor industry -- led by the world’s two largest memory chip makers Samsung Electronics and SK hynix -- Ahn asked for close consultation to minimize damage on Korean firms, as the Dutch government recently announced export curb measures on China.

The Netherlands is home to the world’s leading semiconductor equipment suppliers ASML and ASM. The Dutch government recently confirmed that it will impose new export restrictions on advanced chip technology to China.

The decision, which is widely seen as aligning with the US’ actions to deter China’s clout in the memory chips industry, has prompted concerns for South Korean chip makers who produce a large portion of their chips in China.

The Korean trade minister also asked ASML and ASM to continue investing in Korea and to work closely together with Korean chip makers in a conference held on chips after the bilateral ministerial meeting, Korea's Trade Ministry said.

Officials of both governments, as well as representatives of major Korean and Dutch semiconductor companies attended the conference, the ministry added.

During the bilateral meeting with Schreinemacher, Ahn also discussed ways to promote economic cooperation between the two countries in clean energy, trade and investment, nuclear power plants, hydrogen and offshore wind power, the ministry said.

The two sides also discussed the European Union's planned introduction of the Critical Raw Materials Act, an initiative to encourage eco-friendly vehicles and which is expected to include stricter requirements for battery incentives.

The CRMA is expected to include guidelines for European countries on providing government incentives for local manufacturing businesses and limit subsidies for products that have a low proportion of raw materials sourced in Europe.

The two trade ministers were also present at seven signing ceremonies, where companies of the two countries forged partnerships in various industries including eco-friendly mobility and renewable energy cooperation.

Among the agreements is a strategic partnership between Posco International and Hardt Hyperloop. The two companies agreed to introduce and operate the Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage system in Korea.

Despite the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, trade between the two countries has grown steadily, Korea's Trade Ministry said. The Netherlands ranked second after Germany as the European country with the highest trade volume with South Korea at $16 billion in 2022, the ministry said. Trade between the two countries logged $10.2 billion in 2020, and $15 billion in 2021.