Tough talking for Rio on China iron ore

September 4, 2009

CHINA-IRONORE/No great surprise that Rio Tinto has acknowledged it has given up trying to fix an annual iron ore price with Chinese steel mills.

What strains credibility is the miner’s insistence that this has nothing to do with the detention of its negotiating team in China.

It looks as though Rio’s iron ore head Sam Walsh may have broken ranks and told it as it is. Walsh was quoted by AAP as saying:

At this point in time we’re not negotiating….Remember we have our negotiators detained.

There can’t be many people rushing to fill the shoes of the four Shanghai-based Rio Tinto employees — including lead China negotiator Stern Hu –arrested by Beijing in a crackdown on speculation in the iron ore trade.

But with no talks, a big question mark hangs over what China will end up paying for the iron ore it buys from the world’s second-largest producer.

China has been pushing for a larger cut in prices than the 33 percent reduction Rio Tinto agreed with Japanese and South Korean mills in May.

But with Rio’s negotiators behind bars, there doesn’t seem to be much to discuss as far as Rio is concerned.


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