The US Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) - representing the nation's motor vehicle suppliers - has again urged the federal government to abolish duties on imported steel, citing the continued hardship the tariffs place on the US automotive industry.

"Tariffs on imported steel have already cost this industry tens of thousands of jobs," said MEMA vice president of government affairs Ann Wilson.

"The tariffs drive up costs and reduce the availability of steel used by the industry. The steel industry has moved to great profitability and it is time for these tariffs to be lifted."

Wilson said suppliers were joining the US auto companies in a unified appeal to abolish the tariffs. In hearings earlier this week, the International Trade Commission conducted five-year "sunset" reviews of tariffs on hot-rolled carbon steel flat products. The ITC is expected to render a decision on the duties in October 2007.

A study released by MEMA earlier this year showed that auto suppliers make up the nation's largest manufacturing sector and are the top employers in seven states.

"The US automotive industry is already dealing with major challenges," Wilson said. "Unfortunately, effect of the steel tariffs reaches into American communities - large and small - and makes doing business that much more difficult."