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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Xinhua/Lan Hongguang via Getty Images

Ministers representing 16 Asian-Pacific countries — including China, India, Australia and Japan — that make up a third of the global economy and half of the world's population met in Tokyo Sunday to discuss forming the world's largest trading bloc, reports Bloomberg.

Why it matters: These discussions come as President Trump is alienating allies and adversaries alike with tariffs and threats of an all-out global trade war. Trump's moves have also fostered an unlikely friendship between Asian giants China and Japan as the two hedge against uncertain U.S. foreign policy.

"The path toward a year-end agreement is now clearer ... As protectionism concerns increase globally, it’s important that the Asian region flies the flag of free trade."
— Hiroshige Seko, Japan’s trade minister

The details: Bloomberg reports that the countries' leaders were hopeful that a deal could be signed by the end of the year. The full list of nations — called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership — includes Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand. Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Go deeper

Updated 44 mins ago - Technology

Pandemic gave cover to online dating scams

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Crooked Casanovas used online dating scams to steal an estimated $500 million from lonely victims last year, according to a new analysis of government fraud data by Atlas VPN, an internet security provider.

Why it matters: The isolation of the lingering pandemic provided cover to fraudulent suitors who had an excuse for not meeting up in person even as they fleeced their would-be lovers out of gift cards, money — even cryptocurrency.

Updated 51 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — New York Supreme Court grants stay for indoor mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
1 hour ago - World

U.S. and Iran "in the ballpark" of a nuclear deal, Biden adviser says

Brett McGurk. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk says the U.S. and Iran "are in the ballpark of a possible deal" to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, but he “doesn’t want to put odds on it."

Why it matters: That's the most optimistic statement from the Biden administration since the nuclear talks resumed in Vienna last December. McGurk, who was speaking at a Carnegie Endowment event, didn’t explain the reasoning behind his assessment.