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US, Europe still positive on WTO deal

Thousands of farmers, trade unions, students, women and youth from more than 30 countries gather outside the WTO conference to protest against the free trade regime.
Agung Parameswara | Stringer | Getty Images
Thousands of farmers, trade unions, students, women and youth from more than 30 countries gather outside the WTO conference to protest against the free trade regime.

U.S. and European officials told CNBC there was still a chance of a deal being made at the World Trade Organization (WTO) conference, despite India's refusal to budge on its food security policies having damped expectations for a trade deal.

Hopes that a global trade deal would finally be closed at this week's WTO meeting in Bali had been high, but Indian Trade Minister Anand Sharma threw a spanner in the works on Wednesday. Sharma told delegates that India would not be willing to compromise on food security policies which involve subsidizing food for the poor.

(Watch now: India calls WTO agricultural deal 'half baked')

While the draft Bali deal would allow India to keep its subsidized food policy for four years, Indian policy makers want a further extension.The issue is complicated by the fact that India's ruling Congress Party faces elections in May; poverty and food security are important issues in the country. If India refused to agree to the current draft it could block a deal from being done in Bali.

However, despite the setback, trade officials told CNBC on Thursday they were still optimistic that a deal would be completed. CNBC anchor Lisa Oake reported from the conference that the mood had turned more positive on Thursday morning as the deal deadline fast approached.

(Read more: Indonesia Trade Minister: Less than 50% chance of WTO deal)

"Yesterday we heard delegation after delegation all saying that they want to get a deal here in Bali, so we still have some time and I'm hopeful we can achieve it," said U.S.Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Asked whether other delegates seemed likely to still sign a deal despite India's refusal to budge on its food security policies, Froman implied that the other members of the WTO had already compromised enough.

"The agreement that we all reached in Geneva was a well-balanced agreement with legitimate concerns about food security, but was also designed to ensure that didn't cause greater food insecurity and that was the deal that was on the table when we got here in Bali," he said.

"If you build up stocks of food and it finds its way dumped on to international market places, that lowers the prices and hurts other poor farmers in other poor countries, and that's not in the interest of the WTO," he added.

(Read more: 'Make or break' trade deal: What you need to know)

On Thursday, local press reports in Indonesia said the Indonesian President is going to make a phone call to the Prime Minister of India in a last minute effort to save the round of talks taking place in Bali.

Asked whether this last ditch attempt could help save the deal, Karel De Gucht, European Trade Commissioner, told CNBC the move could have a positive impact on chances for a deal.

"I think it's important that the president is calling the prime minister… I hope it has a good effect on the outcome," said De Gucht.

(Read more: Trade talks in Bali will succeed: Former WTO chief)

The European Trade Commissioner added that if a deal was not made this week it could have serious negative implications for the organization's credibility.

"I am hoping for a deal because I think it is a very important one. It's crucial for the WTO. If we have again a failure here in Bali, it will have consequences for the stature of the WTO," he said, adding that he believed the deal was more crucial for developing countries than it was for developed ones like Europe and the U.S.

Regardless of the efforts being made, not everyone was optimistic on the possibility of a deal.

"Reports out of Bali have not been encouraging. There is no agreement on any of the major issues that are currently on the table so barring some last-minute changes, the prospects for a deal coming out of Bali do not look likely at this point," Timothy Brightbill, partner at Washington based law firm Wiley Rein told CNBC Asia's Cash Flow.

(Watch now: Is a global trade agreement on the horizon?)

"India will have to move somewhat. There is just no agreement on how long WTO members are willing to let those kind of subsidies exist so until that becomes clear there is really not much hope for a deal," he added.

159 members of the WTO have gathered in Bali, Indonesia this week in the hope of finalizing the first agreement since the group formed in 1995, which is said to have the potential to add $1 trillion to the global economy.

By CNBC's Katie Holliday: Follow her on Twitter @hollidaykatie

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