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Drive for the World’s Biggest Free-Trade Deal Hits Bumps

A train of Australian iron ore bound for export in 2019.

A train of Australian iron ore bound for export in 2019.

Photographer: Ian Waldie/Bloomberg

After weeks of trying to talk amid a rapidly deteriorating diplomatic and trade relationship, a senior Australian minister has finally been in close contact with a Chinese counterpart — albeit virtually.

The occasion was Tuesday’s meeting of ministers from 15 of the largest Indo-Pacific economies that are pursuing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which will become the world’s biggest free-trade agreement if completed in November as planned.