Groups representing US importers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers are continuing to call on unions to reach an agreement over a new contract for West Coast dockworkers. 

The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and around 70 associations have sent a letter to the two entities negotiating a contract covering all West Coast port labour: Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

Talks to replace the current contract, which expires on 30 June, began on 12 May.

AAFA, along with other industry associations, said it continues to meet with US government agencies, and representatives of the negotiating parties, to stress the importance of avoiding any supply chain disruptions.

"It is critical that a new agreement be reached without disruptions to the movement of freight," the AAFA said in its letter.

"We know that there are important and difficult issues for both parties to resolve. We urge you to stay at the negotiating table until a deal is reached even if negotiations extend beyond the current contract expiration. Failure to reach an agreement will have serious economy-wide impacts."

The AAFA said the potential for disruptions in the flow of commerce at West Coast ports is creating uncertainty in a fragile economic climate and forcing many businesses to develop contingency plans that come at a significant cost to jobs and the country's economic competitiveness.

West Coast ports handle more than two-thirds of US retail container cargo each year, including the bulk of cargo from Asia. The last major shutdown in autumn 2002 closed ports for ten days, and created a week-long backlog.