US apparel and retail groups have teamed up with other stakeholders to urge the US government to keep Uzbekistan at the lowest level in its annual report on Human Trafficking and Forced Labor.

The US last year downgraded Uzbekistan to Tier 3 status in its Global Trafficking in Persons (GITP) report - the worst ranking possible - due to its use of forced and child labour to pick the country's cotton crop.

The report called for Uzbekistan to "take substantive action to end the use of forced child and adult labour during the annual cotton harvest".

But groups including the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) have sent a letter to the State Department noting that the autumn 2013 annual cotton harvest in Uzbekistan was still marred by widespread use of government-sanctioned and government-orchestrated forced labour.

"As such, Uzbekistan should remain at the lowest tier in the report until Uzbekistan commits to a full blown work programme with the International Labor Organization and other activities," they say.