Trade talks in Montreal have ended with optimistic noises from ministers about the prospects for a make-or-break meeting in the Mexican city of Cancun in six weeks' time.
Canada is one of the countries fighting the US and EU on farming
But behind the upbeat rhetoric, the industrialised countries - the US, the European Union, Japan and Australia - have barely shifted from the positions which have frozen negotiations for 18 months.
Hopes that the ministers' meeting could free up the roadblock on agricultural subsidies and market access, key issues for developing countries, seem to have been dashed.
Without solid progress in backstairs talks between the big players, the chances of pushing forward what was headlined a "development agenda" for world trade look remote.
"My sense is that some defrosting is happening, but we are not yet at the sort of global warming drive that will be needed," said Pascal Lamy, the EU Trade Commissioner.
South African Trade Minister Alec Irwin was more blunt about the challenge ahead.
"We have got a major problem," he told reporters.
"It's going to be tough."
And Indian IT and Communications Minister Arun Shourie said that the US-UE talks would only be acceptable if they were "transparent".
"We don't want to see any surprise, sudden draft texts," he said, referring to a previous last-minute agreement reached in 1992.
Developing countries want action not only on agriculture, but also protection of their right to break patents on expensive drugs needed to fight health emergencies such as HIV/Aids and pneumonia.
In addition, they are worried about the push by industrialised countries to institute investment protection rules before the issues they are concerned about are resolved.
Same song, different words
Part of the problem is that the main protagonists are still often speaking a different language.
Japan, Europe and the US massively subsidise their farmers - but in different ways, which allows them to accuse one another of misbehaviour while absolving themselves of much of the blame.
US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, for instance, told reporters that EU export subsidies amount to $2-5bn a year, while the US equivalent was just $15m.
The EU's Pascal Lamy has some hard talking ahead
"I would be less than frank if I didn't say that I think a number of countries were pretty disappointed that we don't yet have the EU eliminating export subsidies," he said.
The EU does subsidise exports heavily, as well as paying farmers to produce more, which is often then dumped on overseas markets.
But while the US does indeed forswear direct export subsidies, direct aid to farmers - recently increased by more than $50bn over 10 years - allows them to sell overseas at below cost.
That, aid agencies and activists charge, does just as much damage to farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In addition, food aid to foreign countries in the form of US government credit guarantees is conditional on buying US produce - although the US has said it is ready to talk about scaling this programme back.