An extended shutdown of 29 West Coast US ports could have severely affected the automotive supplier industry, according to the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) which has urged both sides of the labour dispute to resolve their differences quickly.

MEMA estimates the value of automotive commodities and vehicles shipped into West Coast ports to be at least $US42 billion for 2002.

"The automotive sector is especially at risk, since the manufacturers rely on 'just-in-time' delivery of parts and components," Bates said.

Last week, lack of imported parts stopped assembly lines at the GM-Toyota joint venture plant in Fremont, California while Dana closed a Stockton, California, plant that makes chassis frames for Toyota's Tacoma pickup truck.

This week, Nissan, Mitusbishi and other Toyota plants had also been cited as being at risk had the ports not begun to reopen late yesterday following federal government intervention.

A final resolution of the dispute appears to be some way off as a further court hearing is scheduled for October 16

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