"Mismatch" was the word used by ambassadors Friday at the 153-member World Trade Organization in comparing that promise to reality on the ground.
They said the current talks were falling far short of the pace and intensity needed to wrap up a deal once promised as a recipe for lifting millions of people out of poverty and adding billions of dollars to the global economy.
There is a "marked and embarrassing gap" between what world leaders and top trade ministers have called for and what is being accomplished in talks, Australia's ambassador Peter Grey told a meeting of the WTO membership.
Washington's outgoing envoy Peter Allgeier said there was "no doubt" that the slow progress of technical work was failing to match the ambition of politicians, while his Indian counterpart Ujal Singh Bhatia claimed there was a "striking lack of energy" in WTO negotiations.
Bhatia said the disconnect threatens to damage the credibility of the WTO and world leaders, who have voiced their support for the Doha round at recent summits in Bali, Indonesia; Paris; L'Aquila, Italy; and Singapore.
The global trade talks were supposed to be completed in 2004 and have been at a standstill for months.
High-level WTO negotiations failed shortly after G8 summits in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2006, Heiligendamm, Germany, in 2007, and Toyako, Japan, in 2008. But this time the trade body has sought a slower approach to achieving a broad compromise that would let developing countries sell more produce to the rich world while giving the U.S., 27-nation European Union and Japan new chances for their manufacturers and service providers to enter the emerging markets of Brazil, China and India.
Pascal Lamy, who in October starts a second five-year term as the WTO's director-general, said his recent meetings with heads of state and trade ministers left him with the sense of a "genuine and strong renewal of political commitment to re-engage in the Doha negotiations and to conclude it in 2010."
But, he said, negotiators in Geneva need to budge from entrenched positions "so that we can get to the arrival point on time."
The WTO largely shuts down during August, when most diplomats go on vacation.
Diplomats aiming to liberalize trade in agriculture, manufacturing and services will look to intensify their work in September.