U.S. 'not expecting good news' at WTO meeting on Indian row

GENEVA Thu Jul 31, 2014 4:53pm EDT

GENEVA (Reuters) - World Trade Organization ambassadors met late on Thursday with less than three hours to persuade India to drop its objections to the first global trade deal in two decades, but U.S. envoy Michael Punke said he was not optimistic of a breakthrough.

"I'm not expecting good news but I'll go listen," he told Reuters as he entered the meeting in Geneva. Another senior ambassador said: "It's difficult, very difficult."

India's Ambassador Anjali Prasad declined to comment.

Other trade diplomats said that they did not know what to expect from the meeting but suspected there was too little time left to meet India's demand that the WTO put on hold the adoption of an global agreement on streamlining customs rules.

India has said it will veto that deal if rules to allow it to stockpile subsidised crops are not given greater attention.

Some diplomats said they thought WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo was speaking directly to ministers in New Delhi to try to hammer out a compromise.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker are visiting the Indian capital and have pressed the Indian government not to block progress.

But even if such behind-the-scenes talks resulted in a possible agreement, there would not be enough time for diplomats in Geneva to discuss the proposal with their capitals.

Azevedo arrived almost 40 minutes after the scheduled start of the meeting and, looking solemn, went in to address the ambassadors without speaking to journalists.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Alison Williams)

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