The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have agreed to discuss the concept of a contract extension covering 29 west coast ports  that does not expire until July 1, 2019.

The parties said the talks have been tentatively scheduled for November 1 and 2, and that neither party will make additional comments before then.

Retailers and other importers have been urging the parties to start the talks earlier to avoid a slowdown of ports similar to the one in late 2014 and early 2015 that resulted in costly delays. Roughly 40 percent of the containers imported to the United States from Asia travel through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.