U.S. Markets closed

News Summary: 16 Asian nations start trade talks

The Associated Press

THE TALKS: China and 15 other Asia-Pacific nations will kick off the first round of free trade talks next month to create one of the world's largest trading blocs, officials said Thursday.

THE BACKGROUND: The comprehensive free-trade pact was an expected outcome of efforts to merge various free trade agreements in the region to maximize the economic benefits. It's not expected to cover issues such as intellectual property rights, reform of state-owned enterprises or regulatory standards.

THE STAKES: With the bustling region of 3.3 billion people accounting for about a third of the world economy, a successful accord could significantly bolster trade and investment.