ASML’s former CEO Peter Wennink has said that the ongoing semiconductor trade war between the US and China is ideologically driven rather than based on facts and is likely to last for several decades.

Wennink, who retired from the company in April after a 25-year stint, made the comments in an interview with Dutch radio station BNR on July 6.

Former ASML CEO, Peter Wennink – ASML

"These kind of discussions are not being conducted on the basis of facts or content or numbers or data but on the basis of ideology," Wennink said, in comments reported by Reuters. "You can think whatever you want about that, but we're a business where the interests of your stakeholders have to be managed in balance... If ideology cuts straight through that, I have problems with that."

ASML is the sole global supplier of extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) photolithography machines that are needed to make the most advanced 3nm and 5nm chips. Based in the Eindhoven suburb of Veldhoven, Netherlands, it is Europe’s, most valuable tech company, with a market cap of €338.7 billion ($363.2bn).

The company has been at the center of the US government’s ongoing trade war with China, with the Dutch government increasingly succumbing to pressure from the Biden administration to block exports of ASML products to China.

First, it banned ASML from selling its most advanced equipment to China, and then in January 2024, it revoked an export license to stop the shipment of two older lithography machines to Chinese customers. In late March, the US government announced it would start asking its allies to stop their domestic semiconductor companies from servicing chipmaking tools for Chinese customers.

During the interview, Wennink said “this [trade war] is going to go on for a while.”

Regarding the fact that ASML had been operating in China for 30 years, he argued that the company had obligations to its staff and customers in the region, leading to him lobbying politicians where necessary in an attempt to stop the rules from becoming too restrictive.

Chinese companies bought 46 percent of ASML's lithography systems sold in the third quarter of 2023, generating around $3.7bn in revenue between July and November of that year.

However, Wennink said he had also raised concerns with Chinese politicians when he believed ASML’s intellectual property was being misused by companies in the region.

The same month that the service and maintenance ban came into force, it was reported that Huawei was building a semiconductor equipment R&D center in Shanghai, with its main focus being on the building of lithography machines.

"I think in Washington, maybe they sometimes thought, that Mr. Wennink, maybe he's a friend of China," he said. "No. I'm a friend to my customers, to my suppliers, to my employees, to my shareholders."