World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo on Monday called on members to avoid triggering an escalation in global trade barriers urging them to reflect on the matter.
He was speaking at a meeting of the whole WTO membership in response to a series of announcements from the organization's members in recent days which suggested that a range of new, unilateral trade barriers could soon be put into force.
"In light of recent announcements on trade policy measures, it is clear that we now see a much higher and real risk of triggering an escalation of trade barriers across the globe," said Azevedo.
"We cannot ignore this risk and I urge all parties to consider and reflect on this situation very carefully. Once we start down this path, it will be very difficult to reverse direction," said the WTO chief.
U.S. President Donald Trump's decision last week to levy tariffs on steel and aluminum imports received worldwide criticism and retaliatory intentions from some of its closest allies.
Trump announced on Thursday a plan to impose penalties of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum, which he said will come into effect this week.
The planned tariffs sparked anger from Canada and the European Union (EU).
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Trump's plan will have "significant and serious" economic ramifications on the two nations.
Azevedo said in his speech however, "An eye for an eye will leave us all blind and the world in deep recession. We must make every effort to avoid the fall of the first dominoes. There is still time."
The WTO head also commented on the current situation in the WTO's Appellate Body, specifically regarding the impasse in the selection process for new members.
The United States is calling for the Appellate Body to be reformed which members say is holding up the appointment of new judges to it.
Azevedo described this as an "extremely serious and urgent concern for us all," as the dispute settlement function underpins the whole trading system.
The director-general said that members should be actively formulating and discussing solutions, and that he would be facilitating further conversations on the issue in the coming days.