The group representing US apparel and footwear importers and retailers has called on President Barack Obama's intervention to prevent a port strike along the US East and Gulf Coasts at the end of the year.

The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) says if no deal is reached in contract negotiations between the International Longshoremen Association (ILA) and United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) by 29 December, widespread work stoppages will bring US ports from Texas to Maine to a standstill.  

"Because 98% of the apparel and 99% of the footwear sold in the United States is produced internationally, four million workers in the US apparel and footwear industry rely on operational ports for their livelihoods," said AAFA president and CEO Kevin Burke.

"If the economic damage done during the west coast strike is any example, we hope all parties are negotiating in earnest to prevent a strike from ever occurring. This includes President Obama."

The AAFA emphasised that last week's work stoppage at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports caused significant delays and economic losses for the US apparel and footwear industry. 

While it will be several months until the industry is able to identify the full economic impact of the strike, early estimates are in the millions of dollars.

It said that one of its members has already spent more than $1m in contingency planning, including identifying alternate shipping methods and routes. 

On top of the immediate transportation cost increases, the industry could be faced with more economic losses in the form of chargebacks from retailers for missed or delayed deliveries caused by work stoppages at the ports.

The AAFA said that in the event of a strike, the President should invoke the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, federal law that would keep the ports at full operational capacity while a deal is reached.