GENEVA: The head of the World Trade Organization warned senior diplomats Monday against tipping "the first dominoes" in a trade war that would be hard to reverse and trigger a deep recession.
The stark alert from WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo came days after President Donald Trump's announcement last week that Washington was set to impose heavy tariffs on steel and aluminium imports into the US.
US trading partners, including China and the European Union, already are preparing to retaliate and have pledged to file a dispute at the 164-member WTO.
"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", WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo told a heads of delegation meeting at the organisation's Geneva headquarters.
"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. An eye for an eye will leave us all blind and the world in deep recession", he said.
"We must make every effort to avoid the fall of the first dominoes", Azevedo continued, adding that "there is still time".
Azevedo, a former Brazilian trade envoy, on Friday said that he was "clearly concerned" about Trump's promised new tariffs -- 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminium.
Trump said Monday on Twitter that he would only scrap planned tariffs on aluminium and steel if a "new & fair" deal to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement is reached.