The French government has been singled out for harsh criticism by Australia's foreign minister for blocking the European Union (EU) from offering significant cuts to its food tariffs and subsidies within the World Trade Organisation Doha Development Round.

Alexander Downer, Australian and British newspapers are reporting, has accused French farmers of "holding the international trade system to ransom" by using their significant lobbying power in Paris to restrict EU trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson's ability to cut a deal with the US, developing countries and food exporters such as Australia.

France had "failed to take advantage" of a key US offer to cut its subsidies and protection, said Downer.