World Trade Organization (WTO) chief Pascal Lamy has abandoned attempts to restart the world trade talks. Lamy told ambassadors in Geneva that he has decided there was not sufficient consensus among major economies to call new ministerial talks on a trade deal.
The news came after the WTO held intensive consultations with US, India, China, Brazil and the European Union. WTO was hoping to convene a meeting in December to try and revive the stalled Doha trade round.
It had been urged to do so by the G20 summit of world leaders in November, who called for urgent trade talks by the end of the year.
It is unclear how strongly the incoming Obama administration will back the trade talks.
A spokesman for the US trade representative, Susan Schwab, said she was disappointed by the outcome, but added that there were still outstanding issues.
"There were more than a handful of issues on the table that needed to be resolved, all having the potential to stall the round," said USTR spokesperson Gretchen Hamel.
The EU also regretted the impasse. "We have come tantalizingly close to the finish line … having come this far, we must not give up," EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton urged in a statement.
But Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Amorim, appeared to blame the rich countries, and especially the US, for the failure. "If there is failure or postponement, the most appropriate word that would apply would be greed," he told reporters.
A previous attempt to revive the trade talks in July ended in failure when rich and poor countries could not agree on how to end agricultural subsidies and trade barriers.
The Doha Round, which was launched in 2001, was intended to free world trade for the benefit of poor countries, and was particularly aimed at tackling barriers in agriculture.
But poor countries have been reluctant to open up their own agricultural and industrial sectors to free trade – and the growing economic slowdown is likely to make concessions even more difficult.
The seven-year negotiations, aimed at setting new rules for global commerce, have suffered a number of setbacks since Mr Lamy was appointed as the WTO director general in 2005.