By Alexandra Alper and David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An American official on Tuesday made the most direct comments by a U.S. authority to date acknowledging the existence of a deal with Japan and the Netherlands for those countries to impose new restrictions on exports of chipmaking tools to China.
"We can't talk about the deal right now," Deputy Commerce Department Secretary Don Graves said on the sidelines of an event in Washington. "But you can certainly talk to our friends in Japan and the Netherlands."
Bloomberg reported on Friday an agreement had been finalized and two people familiar with the matter later confirmed the news to Reuters.
The United States in October imposed sweeping export restrictions on shipments of chipmaking tools to China, seeking to hobble Beijing's ability to supercharge its chip industry and enhance its military capabilities.
For the restrictions to be effective, though, Washington needed to bring on board the Netherlands and Japan, home to chipmaking powerhouses ASML and Tokyo Electron, among others.
The Commerce Department said in an email it will continue to coordinate on export controls with allies.
"We recognize that multilateral controls are more effective than unilateral controls, and foreign engagement on these controls is a ... priority," the agency said.
Officials from the Netherlands and Japan were in Washington discussing a wide range of issues in talks led by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Friday.
When asked on Friday if an agreement on semiconductors had been discussed, U.S. President Joe Biden said: "Yes, we talked about a lot of things, but a lot of it is private."
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Tom Hogue)