As the 11th round of negotiations of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement gets underway in Melbourne, Australia, this week, a new global coalition of fibre, textile and apparel groups from 30 countries is calling for strict textile rules as part of the pact.

The group - which goes by the name of the Textile and Apparel Alliance for TPP (TAAT) - in particular oppose what they say is Vietnam's request for new country-of-origin rules for textiles.

These "would uniquely benefit Vietnam and are far weaker than the long standing origin rules in our existing US free trade agreements (FTAs) and preference arrangements," it said in a letter to Ambassador Ron Kirk, the United States Trade Representative.

"These rules would provide Vietnam's state-owned apparel manufacturers with direct access to China's massive state-run textile enterprises to create apparel and other products that would then be duty-free into all other TPP countries - something never imagined in any previous FTA."

The Alliance warns that Vietnam's proposal would mean "thousands of privately held manufacturing plants in our countries would be forced to close and hundreds of thousands of our workers would lose their jobs."

However, other groups representing apparel retailers, brands, manufacturers and importers has long argued that traditional rules on textiles and apparel - especially the controversial "yarn forward rule" - are outdated and inflexible.

The yarn forward rule of origin requires all the materials that go into a garment to originate and be assembled in a TPP country to receive tariff-free treatment.

But 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.

Countries that have joined the TAAT Alliance Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia & Zimbabwe Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, the US, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

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