The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) has joined forces with manufacturers and wholesalers to urge the US government to keep Uzbekistan at the lowest level in its annual report on Human Trafficking and Forced Labor.

In an open letter to the Secretary of State, John Kerry, on behalf of the US apparel supply chain, the AFFA called on the government to once again place Uzbekistan in Tier 3 of 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.

Groups including the AAFA previously 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.

They reiterated this once again in today's letter: "Countless reports and evidence demonstrate that the Uzbek government in 2013 not only failed to make 'significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance' with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, but also continued to mobilise the forced labour of adults and children for the fall 2013 cotton harvest."

It added: "Based on the lack of substantial progress, we believe the only appropriate ranking for Uzbekistan in the report remains Tier 3.

"Such a ranking would communicate to the Uzbek government that its policy and practice of forced labour is unacceptable and would support a decision by the Uzbek government to work urgently with the International Labor Organization (ILO) to end forced labour."