How one solar company is defying Trump's trade tariffs

Trina Solar Limited has found ways around Trump's tariffs to continue supplying its biggest market: the US

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    Despite some higher costs and ongoing trade uncertainty, Chinese companies want to keep providing the US with solar panels [Reuters]
    Despite some higher costs and ongoing trade uncertainty, Chinese companies want to keep providing the US with solar panels [Reuters]

    China's Trina Solar Ltd., one of largest panel manufacturers, says it's well insulated from the growing trade dispute with the U.S.

    The reason: the last trade dispute with the U.S.

    When the U.S. imposed anti-dumping penalties on solar panels imported from China under President Barack Obama, Trina built factories in Thailand and Vietnam to serve American customers, said Steven Zhu, Trina's president for the Americas region. Hence, none of the modules Trina sends to the U.S. come from China. Other solar companies, he said, have developed similar workarounds, limiting the current trade spat's effects.

    "The impact on U.S. solar -- you won't see that much," Zhu said in an interview Friday. "What happens has already happened."

    Output from Trina's Thailand and Vietnam factories are subject to a 20% U.S. tariff that President Donald Trump has already imposed on solar imports. But it's not big enough to move manufacturing to the U.S., Zhu said.

    "We did the calculation before, and still keep evaluating," he said. "The operation cost is still a little bit higher, in terms comparing with Thailand, Vietnam and even Mexico."

    Despite uncertainty over trade, Zhu said he expects solar sales to continue to grow, including in the U.S. Texas, he said, is now the hottest domestic market for large-scale solar installations, eclipsing California.

    SOURCE: Bloomberg