economics

April 1, 2010

China and Rio Tinto Steel trap The Rio trial leaves unresolved questions about China’s rule of law

It is unclear how the bribery allegations were linked to those of commercial espionage, since the latter charges were heard behind closed doors—even Australian diplomats were barred from the hearing. According to some reports the court was told that that the four had got their hands on a confidential memo from a meeting of the Chinese steelmakers’ association, containing details of their negotiating position in the talks with Rio and other big ore producers. Depending on how they had done so, that might have strengthened the case against them. But before the trials, Western mining executives had assumed that the four were being treated as criminals for simply gathering basic information about their negotiating partners’ likely demand for ore—the sort of thing that is rarely considered secret elsewhere in the world.

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