With this week's OPEC meeting, oil traders and analysts are watching for an unlikely cut in production from the cartel. But on the other side of the world, other negotiations are taking place that could also have a major influence on our global economy and the pace of its recovery -- and perhaps on your investment portfolio.

I'm referring to benchmark iron ore price agreements that industry giants like Rio Tinto (NYSE:RTP) are negotiating right now. Iron ore is a major component in the manufacture of steel, and iron ore prices have just taken a major step backward, as Rio has reportedly agreed to price cuts of 33% to 44% in an agreement with Japan's Nippon Steel.

Compare that to the 96.5% price hike that Rio and BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP) exacted a year ago, when commodities were running like scalded dogs, and you get a reinforced sense of how the world has changed. However, the iron ore pricing picture is far from complete. BHP is negotiating with mills in Japan and South Korea. And then there's China, whose steelmakers import about half the world's traded ore, and have been demanding price cuts of 40% to 50%.

All this is taking place under the watchful eyes of regulators, who almost certainly will be looking for evidence that Aluminum Corp. of China's (NYSE:ACH) -- or Chinalco's -- efforts to double its stake in Rio Tinto has played a role in the negotiations. That proposed transaction has yet to pass muster by Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board.

Still hanging back is the biggest ore producer of them all, Brazil's Vale (NYSE:RIO), which last year jumped into negotiations before the other big miners and ended up with a smaller price increase, something it seems determined to avoid this go-round. At the same time, Rio's deal with Nippon, coupled with Chinese determination to obtain larger price cuts, just might end up altering the entire approach to iron ore pricing this year. One of several possibilities as negotiations go forward is for the Chinese to rely more on spot markets, holding out for larger cuts in price agreements.

So while few of us wake up each day craving news on the world of iron ore pricing, it seems to me that all this activity is worth Foolish attention. Rio Tinto, for instance, has nearly tripled its share price just since the end of 2008, but is still well below its 52-week high. Given the impact that lower iron ore prices could have on profits, maybe there's a good reason why shares haven't recovered their former glory.

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