A group of US lawmakers is calling for a "fresh approach" to textiles and apparel in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, as the ninth round of talks gets underway in Lima, Peru this week.

30 Members of Congress have sent a letter to Trade Representative Ron Kirk, urging the US to leave "outdated and inflexible rules" on textiles and apparel out of the TPP.

The 15 House Republicans and 15 House Democrats also argue that a more flexible approach on textile and apparel rules would help provide leverage necessary to achieve the best possible agreement for US economic interests.

Groups representing American retailers, apparel brands, manufacturers and importers under the banner of the TPP Apparel Coalition have welcomed the move.

"The TPP Apparel Coalition seeks a TPP agreement that creates opportunities to maximize our innovative strengths and generates US jobs along the full range of activities that American firms and American workers do to bring a product from its conception to the final customer," says Stephanie Lester, vice president of international trade at the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

"This includes activities such as design, production, marketing, distribution, retail and support to the final customer.

"When considering ways to create new opportunities in the TPP for apparel, our negotiators should focus on the US value and US jobs created throughout the entire value chain, not just factory production."

Julie Hughes, president of the US Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel (USA-ITA), adds: "We urge US negotiators to move the ball forward and to work with industry to develop a new and flexible proposal that would jumpstart the negotiations and spur new trade and investment in apparel."

As it stands today, textiles and apparel are treated differently than other products in the TPP.

One of the main issues is the restrictive "yarn forward" style rule of origin - which requires all the materials that go into a garment to originate and be assembled in a TPP country to receive tariff-free treatment.

Requiring apparel to be sewn from fabric woven from yarn spun in the country or countries covered by the agreement is unworkable in today's global value chains, US apparel and retail industry stakeholders claim.

Past FTAs with TPP countries have shown that such an "all or nothing" approach does not spur new US exports or new apparel trade, they add.

US textile makers support the yarn forward rule and other restrictive rules, claim that they protect US jobs.

But the National Retail Federation counters that most of the apparel products in question are no longer made in the United States, so the restriction merely drives up prices while doing little or nothing to create jobs.

In addition, it adds, the yarn-forward rule has failed to generate significant new trade and investment in textiles and apparel under other free trade agreements, including increased exports of US yarns and fabrics.

And finally, only a comparatively small percentage of the value of any given piece of merchandise goes to the factory where it is made, with the majority of the price going to US designers, marketers and others along the supply chain.

The US and eight Pacific Rim nations are formally involved in the multi-lateral trade talks, including Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and Peru.