Ingrid Thijssen, president of the Netherlands Confederation of Business and Employers, speaks with U.S. Representative Peter Meijer (left) and Ambassador André Haspels after the lunchtime seminar on Capitol Hill about the semiconductor industry.
Ingrid Thijssen, president of the Netherlands Confederation of Business and Employers (VNO-NCW), visited Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on April 5 and spoke during a lunchtime seminar about the transatlantic cooperation in the semiconductor industry.
The seminar was part of the Holland on the Hill program of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Washington, D.C., and also featured an expert panel of industry representatives who discussed semiconductor technologies and capabilities, supply-chain security, workforce development, relevant U.S. and EU legislation, and international cooperation in the field.
The text of her speech follows:
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before elaborating on the subject of today I really want to say thank you. Thank you to the United States of America for cooperating intensely with the European Union on the sanctions on Russia and for sending extra troops to Europe’s eastern border.
Well, an incredible group of distinguished guests is gathered here today in order to discuss the important topic of semiconductors and chips. I am truly delighted with your invitation and the opportunity to kick off our discussion.
We witness a world in fundamental transition. Over the last decade we have been witnessing the rise of China and recently we are confronted with geopolitical earthquakes such as COVID-19 and even more destabilizing the war in Ukraine, at the doorstep of the European Union.
COVID-19 spurred unprecedented actions from governments all over the world with lockdowns that severely impacted society and businesses. It speeded up the awareness in Europe that we are too dependent on other countries and, to put it mildly, in many cases we cannot say that these countries share our values.
Now, the war in Ukraine forces Europe to review the peace dividend and take up security as a matter of the utmost importance, together with our American partners within NATO.
There certainly is no news in telling you that the impact of the war on businesses is huge. It has all the elements in it, to have an even bigger economic impact than the COVID-crisis. Our business community fears a scenario of the 1970s. Energy as well as feedstock prices are extremely high and supply chains are severely disrupted. All due to our dependency on Ukraine, Belarus and especially Russia.
As in the US, this leads to an even faster increasing awareness in the European Union that we need to bolster our economies to make them more resilient to external shocks. We call this “open strategic autonomy”, being able to act autonomously and at the same time remain as open as possible. And especially open to like-minded countries such as our American friends, I emphasize.
This means that in Europe we are analyzing our external strategic dependencies and finding means to remedy them. Economic competitiveness, R&D and dominance in critical technologies are right at the top of the agenda. Not only at a European scope, but also at the national level. For example, in The Netherlands, we have established a 20 billion euro National Growth Fund in order to boost R&D investments.
And this brings me to the topic of today, micro-electronics. It is clear that today, chips are at the heart of the green and digital transition and demand is expected to increase enormously. As some say: chips are the new oil.
Semiconductors are the building blocks for almost everything. Without them, large parts of our industries – such as our automotive or health tech sectors – would come to a standstill. It is of such importance for our economies, that it warrants significant domestic manufacturing.
Yet, currently only 8% of the world’s chips supply is manufactured in Europe and this will reduce even further if we don’t move swiftly. We – both in the EU and in the US – design the elements for new chips ourselves, while outsourcing the production abroad. Primarily to East Asia, which is now home to nearly 80% of global chip fabrication.
Today, we recognize the geopolitical and economic risks of the growing concentration of chip fabrication overseas. To be able to act autonomously in the future, we realized in Europe that we needed to create a more resilient European chips economy. This resulted in the European Chips Act, with the objective to double Europe’s global market share to 20% by 2030.
But having an Act is one thing, really reaching a proposed target is another. We need to cooperate with both the US government and US companies to rebalance the global semiconductor and chips value chain. The announcement last month of Intel venturing on a path of intense cooperation and investment in Europe is a good example.
Dutch players in the ecosystem have a long history of collaborating with the United States. ASML and NXP employ thousands and serve US customers and global markets from US soil. A nice to know footnote in history is that the world’s biggest chips manufacturer TSMC, would have never existed without Philips. We all know where that led to!
Observing the geopolitical trends, the European Union was already on a path to open strategic autonomy before COVID-19, let alone the war in Ukraine. And I think this is good news for the United States, because a more autonomous Europe will be a stronger partner for the US.
I can only stress that we need to ensure that the two blocs on both sides of the Atlantic combine their specific and complementary strengths. In this way we can escape the possibility of economic coercion from not like minded countries with a dominant position in energy, feedstock or – the topic of today – semiconductors and chips.
Ladies and gentlemen, we live in trying times. COVID-19, the increasing tensions with China over the last decade and the Ukraine-war confront us with the need for more resilient economies. In a new geopolitical era it is my firm conviction that resilience can only be reached when the United States of America and the European Union cooperate as closely as possible. And I am convinced that the centuries of history we share, will enable us to do so.
Thank you for your attention.