A group of United States automotive suppliers said on Monday that the Bush administration’s protective tariffs on foreign steel have driven up their costs, forcing them to cut jobs and consider importing steel and other materials, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters, the companies, who are some of the largest purchasers of US steel, said they may import more steel from countries that are exempt from the tariffs, such as Brazil, Argentina and Turkey. They may also import parts that use steel, they said, Reuters added.

“Wherever possible, we will purchase finished goods from non-US suppliers whose steel costs are lower,” said Jeff Stoner, vice president of worldwide procurement for ArvinMeritor Inc., which bought a million tons of steel globally last year, told Reuters.

According to Reuters, Stoner said that ArvinMeritor, which makes wheels, drivetrains and suspension systems for cars and trucks, said that rising steel costs were one reason it decided last week to close its Gordonsville, Tennessee, plant that makes window regulators and sunroofs.

Reuters reported that Stoner and other automotive suppliers said at an event, organised by the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, that the steel tariffs drove up their costs for steel by nearly 50% or more, and caused delivery delays.

Reuters said that President Bush imposed tariffs on foreign-produced steel ranging from 8 to 30% in March 2002 under so-called “safeguard provisions” of US trade law.

Several companies told Reuters that for every one US job the steel tariffs were designed to protect, more than 50 jobs were hit by negative consequences.