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Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (R) is pictured on a TV monitor next to leaders of other country signatories during the signing ceremony for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership at a virtual summit, hosted from Hanoi. Photo: Nhac Nguyen /AFP via Getty Images

China and 14 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region on Sunday formed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Why it matters: The RCEP is the world's biggest free trading bloc, accounting for almost a third of all economic activity.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
  • The nations aim for the pact to "mitigate the crippling cost of the coronavirus and ease financial pain," per a statement from Vietnam's government, from where the leaders' online summit was hosted.

Of note: The agreement will see "already low" trade tariffs between member nations progressively reduce further, though it's "less comprehensive" than the Trans-Pacific Partnership that President Trump withdrew the U.S. from in 2017, AP notes.

The big picture: The signatories comprise the leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Go deeper

Jan 26, 2021 - World

Biden sets his sights on China

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images  

The new administration's first few moves and statements on China suggest that President Biden may continue some of the Trump era's most assertive policies.

Why it matters: China's severe domestic repression, its dramatic rise as a technological superpower, and its increasingly aggressive actions around the globe mean that the world expects the American president to take action.

SoCalGas agrees to $1.8 billion settlement for 2015 gas blowout

An evacuee with a Save Porter Ranch sign outside Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon gate in Porter Ranch in January 2016 as the gas leak continued. Photos: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Southern California Gas Company and its parent company announced Monday they've agreed to pay up to $1.8 billion in settlement claims over the 2015 Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility blowout.

Why it matters: Some 100,000 tons of methane, ethane and toxic chemicals poured into the air for 112 days, forcing over 8,000 families to evacuate from their Los Angeles-area homes and sickening many with headaches, nausea and nosebleeds, per the L.A. Times.

Updated 5 hours ago - World

North Korea fires short-range missile to sea, slams "hostile" U.S. policy

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday that North Korea's military had fired a short-range missile toward its eastern sea, per AP.

Why it matters: North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations defended the latest launch in remarks to the UN General Assembly, demanding the U.S. and South Korea end their "hostile policy" against the country.

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