Trade and partnerships

Trade and partnerships

Shared prosperity through trade and partnerships

In today's global economy, we are all interdependent on a complex web of relationships and agreements. Countries depend on one another for essential materials and supplies. Long-term purchase commitments give businesses the capacity to innovate and expand.

We bring foreign capital to countries that drives myriad benefits for local people, communities and businesses. We build partnerships that span supply, innovation, knowledge transfer, culture and procurement. And we also benefit from the long-term commitments made by countries to purchase our materials.


Sanlitun shopping district Sanlitun shopping district

Partnering with two Asian powerhouses

Today, China is Rio Tinto's largest customer, accounting for more than 40 per cent of our global revenues. Since our trading with China began, more than a century ago, we have supplied metals and materials that China’s growth is built on. The very first Rio Tinto iron ore shipment was delivered to China in 1973, and since then, we have supplied more than 2 billion tonnes of iron ore to China.

We are one of Japan's largest suppliers of raw materials, spanning the breadth of our metals and minerals portfolio. Our more than 50-year relationship with Japan – and its demand for our iron ore – has also played a pivotal role in helping us to develop strong and prosperous operations in the Pilbara.

But China and Japan are more than important customers. Chinese and Japanese suppliers make vital contributions across our global value chain through their machinery, equipment, products and services. And we partner with Chinese and Japanese companies in mining and smelting operations and exploration projects around the world.


customers in Japan for our metals and minerals

Supporting key industries abroad

We will continue helping China in its development goals:

  • Our materials, such as iron ore, aluminium and copper, support China's key industries from construction to shipbuilding to automotive to electronics.
  • As the Chinese economy matures, Rio Tinto minerals such as borates, titanium dioxide and diamonds are helping China satisfy growing demand for consumer products from a population whose wealth is on the rise.
  • The quality of our iron ore also means the material plays an important role in helping the country achieve its sustainability goals, reducing pollution from steel mills and making products last longer.

In 2017, the Bao-HI Joint Venture between Rio Tinto and China's Baosteel celebrated its 15th anniversary and the Channar Mining Joint Venture between Rio Tinto and China's Sinosteel celebrated its 30th anniversary – with a third extension announced. We also signed a collaborative partnership in mineral exploration with China's Minmetals, extended the tenure of our joint research centre with Tsinghua University, and signed a partnership with China's State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission to develop executive training.

The strength of our relationship with Japan is the result of our long-term mutual commitment as a supplier, customer and business partner:

  • We supply to over 250 Japanese customers, including steel mills, power utilities, trading companies, manufacturers, and chemical companies
  • In 2017 we shipped our five billionth tonne of iron ore from the Pilbara – the recipient of the shipment was one of our Japanese customers: Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation.
  • We've established a 400 million yen, ten-year scholarship with Komatsu LTD in the Tohoku region of Japan, which was devastated by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The scholarship helps students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to continue their studies.

Successful trading relationships and effective partnerships are vital to improving quality of life, and we are uniquely positioned to contribute to sustainable development that leaves no one behind.