US apparel and retail bodies are lobbying the US government to seek an end to a strike at the Californian ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) and the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) have sent letters to President Barack Obama asking the government engage in the stalled contract negotiations between management and striking union workers at the nation's largest ports.

The AAFA emphasised the pressing need for uninterrupted flow of trade through US ports, which was exemplified most recently by the events of Hurricane Sandy, in which temporary shut downs of major Northeastern ports seriously affected its ability to get products to market, a setback that its members continue to recover from.

"The requirement for continuous port operations is even more important on the West Coast as it stands, 98% of apparel and 99% of footwear sold in the US is produced globally, and over 45% of these products come through these ports. The reliance of our industry and the US economy on these ports cannot be overstated - in 2002, a 10-day coast-wide labour lockout backlogged over 300,000 containers and cost US commerce an estimated $1 billion daily. Ultimately, American consumers are the ones affected by disruptions on any scale - as end-users of products, they bear the everyday brunt of shortages, higher good and component prices, and delayed shipments," the AAFA's letter said.

The NRF said the two parties have been negotiating a contract on and off for over two years, and while there are tough issues that have remained unresolved during these negotiations, it is critically important, that the two parties remain at the table until a new deal is finalised.

"A 10-day lockout at the West Coast ports as a result of stalled negotiations in 2002 led to lingering supply chain disruptions and cost the US economy $1 billion for each day of the lockout. It took the ports a full six months to recover, and the strike had a profound impact on the retailers, importers, manufacturers, agrictultural exporters and other affiliated industries that rely on the ports every day. An extended strike this time could have a greater impact considering the fragile state of the US economy," said NRF president and CEO Matt Shay.

According to Reuters, the dispute has been triggered by 500 clerical workers at the ports, members of the Clerical Union Workers. Their clout has been significantly strengthened because some 10,000 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have supported them, refusing to cross their picket lines.

The action has effectively shut down 10 of the two ports' combined 14 container terminals.