World Trade Organisation chief Pascal Lamy has abandoned attempts to restart world trade talks.
Mr Lamy told ambassadors there is not enough consensus among major economies to call new ministerial talks on a trade deal.
The announcement was made after intensive consultations were held with the United States, India, China, Brazil and the European Union.
The WTO was hoping to convene a meeting later this month to try to revive the stalled Doha trade round.
It had been urged to do so by the G20 summit of world leaders last month, who called for urgent trade talks by the end of the year.
The BBC reports it is unclear how strongly the incoming Barack Obama administration in the United States will back the trade talks.
A previous attempt to revive the talks in July ended in failure when both rich and poor countries could not agree on how to end agricultural subsidies and trade barriers.
The Doha Round was launched in 2001. It 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 their own agricultural and industrial sectors to free trade - and the growing economic slowdown is likely to make concessions even more difficult.
Mr Lamy indicated last month that he is to seek a second four-year term, saying that "much remains to be done".