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Europe needs fast, focused tech industry policy, Dutch minister says

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows ASML logo

By Toby Sterling

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Europe needs to be fast, selective and aggressive in supporting key tech industries amid U.S.-China trade tensions, the Dutch economic affairs minister said in an interview on Wednesday.

Micky Adriaansens has refocused Dutch industrial tech policy on protecting and promoting a handful of technologies where the Netherlands has pre-existing strengths such as semiconductors, where Dutch equipment firm ASML is a powerhouse.

"I'm going to talk to Breton tomorrow," she told Reuters, referring to European industry commissioner Thierry Breton.

"My message will be we need a strategy for Europe on (key) technologies."

While the European Chips Act was intended as a response to U.S. and Chinese chip subsidy programmes, it has so far only approved support by the French government for STMicroelectronics to build a factory in Crolles, France. Intel and TSMC have announced plans to build plants in Germany, but these have not been approved by the European Union.

"We have good ideas in Europe, and I've really appreciated what the Commission has done in the past few years," Adriaansens said.

"But we need to act, and we're not so good at that - the Americans are better at that ... We need to speed up the execution."

She said as a small trading nation, the Netherlands faced additional challenges at a time when free trade is under pressure.

Under Prime Minister Mark Rutte, a strong candidate to become the next NATO secretary general, the Netherlands has so far supported a U.S.-led campaign to restrict ASML from exporting its best equipment to customers in China.

Adriaansens said that the need to protect technology was a new reality and her office last year introduced security vettingfor foreign tech investments.

But she said the Netherlands would not necessarily support further restrictions or an attempt to isolate China technologically.

"You have to be very careful what you're doing because it also has negative side effects," she said.

"I cannot speak for the American state, they have to do it for themselves, and they will. But from our point of view, we need the world, we need everybody to have an open economy." (This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Crolles in paragraph 5)

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Mark Potter)