Chamber of commerce

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Former headquarters of Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, the oldest chamber of commerce in the United States, established in 1768 during the British Colonial Period
Dublin Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1783.
Toledo Chamber of Commerce, 1895

A chamber of commerce, or board of trade, is a form of business network. For example, a local organization of businesses whose goal is to further the interests of businesses. Business owners in towns and cities form these local societies to advocate on behalf of the business community. Local businesses are members, and they elect a board of directors or executive council to set policy for the chamber. The board or council then hires a President, CEO, or Executive Director, plus staffing appropriate to size, to run the organization.

A chamber of commerce may be a voluntary or a mandatory association of business firms belonging to different trades and industries. They serve as spokespeople and representatives of a business community.[1] They differ from country to country.


The first chamber of commerce was founded in 1599 in Marseille, France, as the "Chambre de Commerce".[2][3][4][5]

Another official chamber of commerce followed 65 years later, probably[vague] in Bruges, then part of the Spanish Netherlands.[citation needed]

The Royal Barcelona Board of Trade was established in 1758.

The world's oldest English-speaking chamber of commerce and oldest chamber of commerce in North America is the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1750.[citation needed]

The Glasgow Chamber of Commerce,[6] was founded in 1783. However, Hull Chamber of Commerce[7] is the UK's oldest, followed by those of Leeds and of Belfast in present day Northern Ireland.[citation needed]

As a non-governmental institution, a chamber of commerce has no direct role in the writing and passage of laws and regulations that affect businesses. It can, however, lobby in an attempt to get laws passed that are favorable to businesses.[citation needed]

The United States Chamber of Commerce has a long history of anti-union lobbying and union-busting in the United States at the local and federal level.[8][9][10]


Membership in an individual chamber can range from a few dozen to well over 800,000, as is the case with the Paris Île-de-France Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry.[11] Some chamber organizations in China report even larger membership numbers. Chambers of commerce can range in scope from individual neighborhoods within a city or town up to an international chamber of commerce.[12]

In the United States, chambers do not operate in the same manner as the Better Business Bureau in that, while the BBB has the authority to bind its members under a formal operation doctrine (and, thus, can remove them if complaints arise regarding their services), the local chamber membership is either voluntary or required by law. Some chambers are partially funded by local government, others are non-profit, and some are a combination of the two. Chambers of commerce also can include economic development corporations or groups (though the latter can sometimes be a formal branch of a local government, the groups work together and may in some cases share office facilities) as well as tourism and visitor bureaus.[citation needed]

Some chambers have joined state, national (such as the United States Chamber of Commerce and the British Chambers of Commerce) and even international bodies (such as Eurochambres, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Worldchambers). Currently, there are about 13,000 chambers registered in the official Worldchambers Network registry, and the chamber of commerce network is the largest business network globally. This network is informal, with each local chamber incorporated and operating separately, rather than as a chapter of a national or state chamber.[citation needed]

Chamber models[edit]

Community, city and regional chambers[edit]

The Turku City Chamber of Commerce (next to a local restaurant) along the Puolalankatu street in Turku, Finland

Chambers of commerce in the United States can be considered community, city, regional, state, or nationwide (United States Chamber of Commerce). City Chambers work on the local level to bring the business community together to develop strong local networks, which can result in a business-to-business exchange. In most cases, city Chambers work with their local government, such as their mayor, their city council, and local representatives to develop pro-business initiatives.[13] There are also bilateral chambers of commerce that link the business environments of two countries (e.g. Romanian-American Chamber of Commerce, Moldovan–American Chamber of Commerce).

Community chambers[edit]

Community chambers of commerce started[when?] in the UK and later spread to in the US, becoming city chambers of commerce as communities developed and became larger. Community chambers of commerce are smaller and most[quantify] have a limit on numbers of members.[14]

City chambers[edit]

The Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce in Marlborough, Massachusetts
The Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce in Marlborough, Massachusetts

City chambers of commerce have a long history in the US. The Charleston Chamber of Commerce is one of the oldest, dating back to colonial 1773.[15] That same year, Boston's Chamber of Commerce organized a seminal tax protest: The Boston Tea Party.[16]

In 2005 there were 2,800 chambers of commerce in the United States and 102 chambers representing U.S. businesses overseas.[13] According to the Association for Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), there are approximately 3,000 chambers of commerce with at least one staff person and "thousands more established as strictly volunteer entities".[17]

State chambers[edit]

State chambers of commerce are much different from local and regional chambers of commerce, as they work on state and sometimes federal issues impacting the business community. Just as the local chamber is critical to the local business community, state chambers serve a unique function, serving as a third-party voice on important business legislation that impacts the business community and is critical in shaping legislation in their respective state. State Chambers work with their Governor, state representatives, state senators, US congressional leaders, and US Senators. In comparison with state trade associations, which serve as a voice and resource to a particular industry, state chambers are looked to as a respected voice, representing the entire business community to enhance and advocate for a better business environment.

National and international chambers[edit]

Addressing the national or international need for information is the key service that these chambers of commerce provide. These services are in most cases at no fee or cost to their members; some of them offer personal and/or business services at a very low fee (like memberships to other associations such as the NRA).

Compulsory or public-law chambers[edit]

Under the compulsory or public law model, enterprises of certain sizes, types, or sectors are obliged to become members of the chamber. This model is common in European Union countries (e.g. France,[18] Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria), as well as Japan and Indonesia. The main tasks of the chambers are foreign trade promotion, vocational training, regional economic development, and general services to their members. The chambers were given responsibilities of public administration in various fields by the state which they exercise in order management. The chambers also have a consultative function; this means the chambers must be consulted whenever a new law related to industry or commerce is proposed.[19]

In Germany, the chambers of commerce and industry (IHK - Industrie- und Handelskammer) and the chambers of skilled crafts (HwK - Handwerkskammer) are public statutory bodies with self-administration under the inspectorate of the state ministry of economy. Enterprises are members by law according to the chamber act (IHK-Gesetz) of 1956. Because of this, such chambers are much bigger than chambers under private law. IHK Munich, the biggest German chamber of commerce, has 350,000 member companies.[20] Germany also has compulsory chambers for "free occupations" such as architects, dentists, engineers, lawyers, notaries, physicians, and pharmacists.

Continental/private law chambers[edit]

Under the private model, which exists in English-speaking countries like USA, Canada or the UK, but as well in Sweden, Finland,[citation needed] Norway and Denmark, companies are not obligated to become chamber members. However, companies often become members to develop their business contacts and, regarding the local chambers (the most common level of organization), to demonstrate a commitment to the local economy. Though governments are not required to consult chambers on proposed laws, the chambers are often contacted given their local influence and membership numbers.

Multilateral chambers[edit]

A multilateral chamber is formed of companies (and sometimes individuals) from different countries with a common business interest towards or in a specific country. It can further be active in representing the interests of local and foreign investors in that specific country, achieved through promotion and proactivity regarding the general business environment. Multilateral chambers of commerce are independent entities strengthening business relations and interactions between all economic players, and their members may benefit from a broad range of activities that enhance the visibility and reputation of their business.


In many countries, Chambers of Commerce are a source of private-sector information. The information is usually gathered by surveying Chamber members. The British Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey is an example of a Chambers of Commerce survey that is used by official governmental departments as a guide to the performance of the economy.[21]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Herring, E. Pendleton (1931). "Chambres de Commerce: Their Legal Status and Political Significance". American Political Science Review. 25 (3): 689–699.


  1. ^ Olorunshola, Damilola Temitope; Odeyemi, Temitayo Isaac (1 January 2022). "Virtue or vice? Public policies and Nigerian entrepreneurial venture performance". Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development. 30 (1): 100–119. doi:10.1108/JSBED-07-2021-0279. ISSN 1462-6004. S2CID 249721896.
  2. ^ "1599 Création à Marseille de la première Chambre de Commerce". Archived from the original on 21 November 2011. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  3. ^ "Le port de Marseille, qui possède la plus ancienne Chambre de Commerce de France (fondée en 1599), acquiert une notoriété Mondiale". Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  4. ^ "Marseille, la Chambre, la plus vieille de France, crée en 1559 par Henri IV". Archived from the original on 1 April 2012. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  5. ^ André-Pierre Nouvion, Origine et histoire des juridictions consulaires et des Chambres de Commerce et d'Industrie Françaises, 2002
  6. ^ [1] Archived 5 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Hull Humber-chamber". Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  8. ^ "Union Busters Operate in Secret — and Want to Keep It That Way".
  9. ^ "Search Registrations & Quarterly Activity Reports | Lobbying Disclosure".
  10. ^ "U.S. Chamber of Commerce - June 20 - Letter Opposing the "Employee Free Choice Act"". Archived from the original on 5 December 2008.
  11. ^ "Expertise, services, local action: the Paris Île-de-France Regional Commerce and Industry is by your side". Archived from the original on 1 September 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  12. ^ "Victor Fedotov, Organization and Legal Models of Chambers" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 January 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  13. ^ a b Robert E. Weir (2007). Class in America: A-G. ABC-CLIO. pp. 121–. ISBN 978-0-313-33720-8. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  14. ^ "Community Chambers of Commerce". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  15. ^ United States Chamber of Commerce. "U.S. Chamber of Commerce: The Early Years" (PDF). U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  16. ^ United States Chamber of Commerce. "U.S. Chamber of Commerce: The Early Years" (PDF). U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  17. ^ "What is a Chamber?". Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  18. ^ André-Pierre Nouvion, Chambres de commerce et d'industrie - Encyclopédie juridique Dalloz - Répertoire de droit commercial, 2005
  19. ^ "Markus Pilgrim and Ralf Meier, Chamber Primer" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 January 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  20. ^ "IHK München". Retrieved 31 August 2010.
  21. ^ British Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey Archived 7 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine. BCC. 2014. Retrieved on 16 June 2014.

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