Trade Representative Comments on Steel Consolidation

December 5, 2001 ( - US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick remarked that proposals by steel companies to have the federal government cover some pension and retiree health care costs as part of a merger deal were "a little rich."

However, he did not rule out the possibility, noting that the government may have to assume the pension liabilities if the companies folded instead of merging, according to a report from Reuters.

“If those plants close down…those benefits will have to be picked up,” he told reporters after giving a speech at a technology conference.

USX-US Steel Corp and Bethlehem Steel Corp. are currently in merger talks with several other steel companies – a restructuring that would give the American steel industry protection from imports for four years under Section 201 of the 1974 trade act.

Zoellick also noted that the mini-mills – which are more efficient than their larger counterparts – do not support the government’s proposal to taking over some pension costs.