Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige said this week he will recommend to President Reagan the reestablishment of a steel tripartite committee representing the federal government, the United Steelworkers Union and the steel company leaders that, under the Carter administration, developed a special aid package for the faltering industry.
But Baldrige also reiterated the administration's stance against any help targeted for one industry and said the economy's general recovery should help U.S. steel makers.
Baldrige, during testimony before the House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee, said he has already talked to the head of the United Steelworkers of America and some steel industry executives about reconvening the tripartite committee "and I'm going to recommend the committee to the administration."
President Carter set up the tripartite committee during the waning days of his administration to investigate the ills of the steel industry and prescribe remedies in an effort to prevent leading steel makers from filing unfair trading practices complaints against European steel producers. Following the steel committee's recommendations Carter unveiled a tax, import and pollution control relief program.
Baldrige said in an interview that he doesn't plan for the committee to act as a "negotiating session" for the steel companies, who are expected to make a formal request for concessions from the steelworkers union. He also said a goal would not be to negotiate a settlement of unfair trade practices charges by major U.S. steelmakers against foreign steel producers.
"It's just a way to get labor, management and government to talk over problems" such as the economy's effect on them, Baldrige said in the interview. "But it helps to talk, get ideas, understand exactly what problems people have."
Baldrige said he didn't know how his recommendation would be received by the administration which has opposed any specific aid for a single industry. "We're not talking about any direct aid to the steel industry," Baldrige said. "They've had (the committee) before and we do have some distinct international problems in steel."