Changes are urgently needed to an “ineffective” US import programme designed to boost the apparel industry in the Dominican Republic, according to the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA).

In a letter to the US Trade Representative, the AAFA says it is “puzzled” as to why Congress has not acted to rectify the situation, after four years of the scheme failing to satisfy its goals.

“This lack of action is perplexing as there was strong bipartisan and bicameral support for the programme when it was first enacted,” it writes.

The letter comes in response to an annual study by the International Trade Commission (ITC) on the effectiveness of the Earned Import Allowance Program (EIAP).

The ITC has previously reported that the programme does not provide adequate incentives to boost the competitiveness of Dominican Republic apparel exports to the US.

In 2013, US apparel imports under the EIAP fell 76% to US$2.7m, the AAFA said – the latest in a series of import declines in recent years.

The AAFA said its members had not found the benefits offered by the programme to be sufficient to warrant business development.

It suggested a number of potential changes to the scheme and said: “Unless rectified, we continue to see the programme as providing little benefit for any of the stakeholders.”