Groups representing US apparel and footwear retailers, brands and importers, along with human rights, trade union and investor organisations from around the world, are calling on US officials to press the Uzbekistan government to end forced, child labour in the country's cotton fields.

The move comes after the US government this week released its annual Global Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) report, but failed to cite Uzbekistan as a country that does not comply with minimal standards to combat forced and child labour.

This, the groups say, "is wholly inconsistent with the well-documented evidence of its systematic abuses."

Under the US Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), the Uzbek government should have demonstrated that it was making "significant efforts" to eliminate forced labour to avoid being downgraded to a Tier III country, which would carry the threat of sanctions.

Uzbek authorities use a cotton production system that in practice relies on the use of forced labour, but consistently deny this is the case. Reports about the 2011 harvest by local monitoring groups and academic studies highlighted the coercion of children as young as 10 and adults to pick cotton and to fulfil government quotas.

While the State Department report identifies the Uzbek government's state quota system for cotton production as a root cause of the practice of forced labour, it again waived the threat of sanctions.

The global trafficking report acknowledges that during the cotton harvest, working conditions include long hours, insufficient food and water, exposure to harmful pesticides, verbal abuse, and inadequate shelter. The report also notes that the use of forced labour and child labour is higher than in the previous years.

The coalition letter sent to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week urges US officials to press the Uzbek government to invite the International Labour Organization (ILO) to monitor the 2012 cotton harvest.

"We are concerned that with quotas set so high for this fall, according to all reports, the Uzbek government will demand even more from the children and adults forced to grow and harvest cotton," said Brian Campbell, policy director at the International Labor Rights Forum.

"Only the ILO has the technical expertise and experience to properly monitor this practice, and it should have unfettered access throughout the cotton harvest and the ability to fully engage Uzbek civil society."