Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a BRICS summit in Goa on October 16, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Representatives from 16 nations are set to meet in Hyderabad, India next week (July 24-28) to discuss a massive trade deal once seen as a competing framework to the now all-but-defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, spearheaded by China, is a key piece – along with the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank – of China’s push to extend greater influence around the globe and create new multilateral institutions that better reflect China’s priorities.

China is pressing the negotiating parties, which include ASEAN member states, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and India, to finish the negotiation process as soon as possible. But recently escalating tensions between China and India could pose a threat to a quick conclusion to the deal. In addition to the border standoff between China and India, New Delhi has consistently been the most intractable of the negotiating parties, and has explicitly expressed unwillingness to rush the process.

Bloomberg reports that India is insisting on mobility for its highly-skilled workers, a demand not likely to be conceded to by ASEAN nations.

India does, however, insist that the border standoff will not get in the way of multilateral negotiations.

“Despite the Doklam standoff, when it comes to various multilateral arrangements the two sides are moving ahead regardless,” former Indian ambassador to China was quoted by Bloomberg as saying, noting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s planned trip to a China-hosted BRICS summit in September.

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