European Union foreign ministers have backed the EU Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, after criticism that he is making too many concessions on farm aid in world trade talks.

In a statement, the ministers said they supported Mr Mandelson’s efforts to secure an outcome 'in line with the mandate'.

The commissioner is negotiating on the EU's behalf to achieve a global trade agreement by the end of the year.

France said Brussels could be exceeding its negotiating mandate on agriculture, a position supported by a number of other EU countries, including Ireland.

However, Mr Mandelson said the French demand to scrutinise all the EU's proposals in trade negotiations would stop world trade talks in their tracks.

Mr Mandelson had been under pressure to respond with a new plan to open up Europe's agricultural markets after the US made a major offer last week.

He suggested that the EU would be ready to reduce agricultural subsidies by 70% and its duties on farm goods by 60%.