International delegations have failed to agree a landmark UN treaty to regulate the global arms trade.
Over 170 countries have spent the past month in New York negotiating a treaty, which needed to be adopted by consensus, so any one country effectively could have vetoed a deal.
The industry is now planning further talks and a possible UN General Assembly vote by the end of the year.
Hopes had been raised that agreement could be reached on a revised treaty text that closed some major loopholes by yesterday’s deadline for action.
But the US announced that it needed more time to consider the proposed treaty - and Russia and China then also asked for more time.
Executive Director of Amnesty International US Suzanne Nossel described the US call as ''stunning cowardice by the Obama administration".
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement that the US supports a second round of negotiations next year.
"While we sought to conclude the month's negotiations with a treaty, more time is a reasonable request for such a complex and critical issue," the statement said.
The draft treaty would require all countries to establish national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms and to regulate arms brokers.
It would prohibit states that ratify the treaty from transferring conventional weapons if they would violate arms embargoes or if they would promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.
In considering whether to authorise the export of arms, the draft says a country must evaluate whether the weapon would be used to violate international human rights or humanitarian laws or be used by terrorists, organised crime or for corrupt practices.
Many countries, including the US, control arms exports but there has never been an international treaty regulating the estimated $60 billion global arms trade.
The UN General Assembly voted in December 2006 to work toward a treaty regulating the growing arms trade, with the US casting a "no" vote.
In October 2009, the Obama administration reversed the Bush administration's position and supported an assembly resolution to hold four preparatory meetings and a four-week UN conference in 2012 to draft an arms trade treaty.
The United States insisted that a treaty had to be approved by the consensus of all 193 UN member states.