The recent imposition of import duties by the US and counter-measures by other countries have come at a "frustrating moment" when policymakers should be working on longer term issues, the head of the International Monetary Fund said today.

Christine Lagarde made her comments at at conference in DCU in Dublin today. 

The IMF warned earlier this month that US President Donald Trump's protectionist trade policies, including the imposition of steel and aluminium tariffs on key allies, pose a threat to undermine the global trading system. 

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said that with the global economy in a reasonably good place - with GDP growth of 3.9% forecast this year "provided things go in the right direction" - policymakers should instead be concentrating on issues such as climate change, inequality and debt. 

"In a way it is quite a frustrating moment because we have been through 10 years of re-architecturing, reinforcing the system and we currently have on a global basis growth pretty much on a par with what we had before the crisis," Ms Lagarde said. 

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"If you start undermining international trade by putting in place barriers, quotas, non tariff barriers and bringing that level of uncertainty ... That is particularly frustrating for those of us who have worked hard to improve the system," she stated. 

"That is why we are concerned," the IMF chief added.

Ms Lagarde also said that the European project was at stake as the European Union faced pressure from Brexit, migration and the rise of populism.

She said it was important to remember the reasoning behind the establishment of the European Economic Community, which was to put an end to war on the continent.

While the idea of war in Europe would seem very far fetched today, she said that recent events have shown how quickly things can change, and she encouraged the EU to continue on its path and act as an example to other countries around the world.