The European Commission has branded suggestions by French president Nicolas Sarkozy to protect EU food producers from world market forces as "completely unrealistic".

Speaking today to, (17-9) a spokesman for EU agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer-Boel said: "If we have a World Trade Organisation agreement at the Doha round, we will have to lower tariffs, not raise them".

The spokesman was speaking after Sarkozy called last week for the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to follow "a non-negotiable principle of community preference", favouring EU-made food over imports.

The Brussels spokesman said: "Europe is the biggest exporter of farm products, so it's not in our interest to have a 'Fortress Europe' and defend markets through tariff protection. If we do that, countries to whom we export to will put up barriers against our products."

With Europe becoming a net food exporter, the spokesman stressed how EU direct payments enabled food producers to "take risky market-based decisions".