The conflict threatens to escalate into a diplomatic row. BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are urging Kevin Rudd to intervene when he arrives in Beijing for his first prime ministerial visit next month.The real battle here is a money game between Beijing and Big Business:
The visit is looming as a stiff test of Mr Rudd's foreign policy finesse. He will also be expected to explain his views on surging Chinese investment in Australia and the bloody conflict in Tibet - while cementing ties with China's leaders.
The boycott appears aimed at stopping BHP and Rio from selling ore on the daily spot market at roughly double the long-term contract price.Rudd is just a minor player.