WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Bush administration flunked its first world trade test by caving in to pressure from abroad and cutting back on duty levels for imported sport utility vehicles and vans, critics say.

At issue was a decision Thursday in which the Treasury Department scaled back a Customs Service ruling and said only some foreign-made sport utility vehicles and vans will be reclassified as trucks.

The Customs Service in January had said it would classify all the vehicles as trucks, upon which a 25 percent duty is imposed, rather than as cars, subject to a 2.5 percent duty.

After Thursday's reversal, U.S. carmakers and members of Congress from auto-making states said the Bush administration let itself be swayed by foreign lobbyists.

''The Bush administration clearly caved in to pressure from the Japanese,'' said Sen. Donald Riegle, D-Mich. ''This decision hurts America - it costs us money and jobs.''

Michigan's other senator, Democrat Carl Levin, saw it the same way: ''In its first major action on trade, the Bush administration has put the wrong foot forward.''

The Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association, which represents domestic carmakers, said the original ruling to boost duties had been the correct one.

''The Customs Service ought to decide U.S. trade practices, not foreign manufacturers,'' the association said.

Foreign automakers were more conciliatory, but said none of the affected vehicles should be subject to 25 percent duties, which they characterized as a new tax by the ''no-new-taxes'' president.

They also raised the specter of higher sticker prices on both imported and domestic sport utility vehicles and vans.

Toyota Motor Sales USA congratulated Treasury ''for courage in the face of massive political pressure from Detroit'' but said none of the vehicles should be classified as trucks.

Curt Bartsch, a spokesman for Nissan Motor Corp. in USA, said the Treasury ruling ''reduces but does not eliminate the economic harm brought by the tax.''

Laura Segall, speaking for American Suzuki Motor Corp., said the ruling ''probably will mean overall more expensive sport-utility vehicles being imported, which will be followed by more expensive domestic sport-utility vehicles.''

The Treasury Department, meanwhile, characterized its decision as a technical matter based on ''legal classification issues'' rather than a reflection of U.S. trade policy.

Under past policy, the vehicles sometimes were considered cars and sometimes were classified as trucks, depending on whether they were fitted with back seats and other amenities. Forty-four percent of the 239,000 affected vehicles imported last year were classified as trucks.

Under the plan announced Thursday, four-door sport-utility vehicles will be classified as cars and two-door models will be considered trucks. Vans will be considered cars if they feature rear seats, rear windows and rear doors.

Treasury officials said that had the same policy been in effect last year, 66 percent of affected vehicles would have been classified as trucks, bringing in another $83 million in duties.