China relies for 50% of its iron ore imports on three main producers: Vale, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. Over the past year, the three global giants have battled to maintain high prices for their exports, while the PRC authorities have striven to drive prices down – and Chinese steelmakers have been urgently searching for alternative suppliers. After a top-level meeting between Chinese diplomats and Ukraine’s prime minister last week, a production sharing agreement between the two states looked likely. The deal would put China in a stronger bargaining position with the Big Three. During the year ending October 2009, China imported 197 million tonnes of iron ore from Australia and 102 million tonnes from Brazil. Smaller, but significant, amounts came from South Africa and India; Ukraine sold just over 11 million tonnes. Currently ranking as seventh among global iron ore producers, Ukraine almost doubled its iron output over the past year.