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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

Dems race to address, preempt stimulus fraud claims

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Biden officials are working to root out the systematic fraud in unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program claims that plagued the Trump administration’s efforts to boost the economy with coronavirus relief money, Gene Sperling told House committee chairmen privately this week.

Why it matters: President Biden just signed another $1.9 trillion of aid into law, with Sperling tapped to oversee its implementation. And the administration is asking Congress to approve another $2.2 trillion for the first phase of an infrastructure package.

7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden close to picking Nick Burns as China ambassador

Nicholas Burns. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat, is in the final stages of vetting to serve as President Biden’s ambassador to China, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Across the administration, there's a consensus the U.S. relationship with China will be the most critical — and consequential — of Biden's presidency. From trade to Taiwan, the stakes are high. Burns could be among the first batch of diplomatic nominees announced in the coming weeks.

Biden's Russian sanctions likely to achieve little

President Biden announces new sanctions against Russia. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Despite bold talk from top administration officials, there's little reason to think the Russia sanctions package President Biden announced Thursday will do anything to alter Russian President Vladimir Putin's behavior or calculus.

Why it matters: While it's true some elements of the package — namely, the targeting of Russia's sovereign debt — represent significant punitive measures against Moscow, it leaves plenty of wiggle room for the Russian president.