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A chamber of commerce (also referred to in some circles as a board of trade) is a form of business network, e.g., 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.

The first chambers of commerce were founded in 1599 in continental Europe (Marseille, Francemarker and Brugge, Belgiummarker). The world's oldest English-speaking chamber of commerce is that of New York City, which was established in 1768. The largest chamber of commerce in the UK is the North East Chamber of Commerce with over 4,000 members. The oldest Chamber in the English speaking world with continuous records is the Glasgowmarker Chamber of Commerce founded in 1783.

Characteristics

Membership in an individual chamber in an area can range from a few dozen to well over 300,000 (as is the case with the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry). 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.

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 operations doctrine (and, thus, can remove them if complaints arise regarding their services), the local chamber membership is strictly voluntary. In addition, Chambers represent the interests of all businesses, while the BBB represents the interests of the general public.

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 visitors bureaus.

Some chambers have joined state, national, and even international bodies (such as Eurochambres, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Worldchambers or the American Chamber of Commerce Executives). 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.

Chamber models

There are basically three chamber business membership models worldwide, 'compulsory / public law','continental / private law' or ┬┤bilateral┬┤.

Compulsory/Public law chambers

Under the compulsory or public law model, companies of a certain areas are obliged to become members of the chamber. This model is common in European Union countries (Francemarker, Germanymarker, Italymarker, Spainmarker). The main tasks of the chamber are foreign trade promotion, training, and general services to companies. 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 consultive function; this means the chambers must be consulted whenever a new law related to industry or commerce is proposed.In Germany the chambers of commerce and industry (IHK - Industrie- und Handelskammer) and the chambers of the skilled crafts and small businesses are a public statutory body with self-administration under the inspectorate of the state ministry of economy. The members of a German chamber 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. The IHK Munich for example as the biggest German chamber of commerce has 310.000 member companies. In the German system there are also chambers for the so called "free occupations": architects, dentists, engineers, lawyers, notaries, physicians and pharmacists.

Continental/Private law chambers

Under the private model, which exists in English-speaking countries like USAmarker, Canadamarker or the UKmarker, but as well in Swedenmarker, Finlandmarker, Norwaymarker and Denmarkmarker, 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.

Bilateral Chambers

A bilateral chamber of commerce is an organisation formed of individuals and companies who share a common interest in trade and commerce between two countries. The role of the chamber is to represent and further the interests of each of its member countries. This is achieved through the promotion and encouragement of bilateral trade and investment.

Bilateral chambers of commerce exist as independent entities yet maintain a close relationship with their embassy and/or consulate - playing an integral role in strengthening bilateral relations and economic interactions. Members of a bilateral chamber benefit from a useful range of business services, support and advice aiming to help fulfil each member's professional goals.

Bilateral chambers form a key component in the creation, growth and development process of a company or individual seeking to operate in a foreign business environment. The opportunities and advantages which membership confers should be considered essential in light of the chamber's culturally sensitive insight and in depth knowledge of the respective countries political and economic structure.

The core activities of a bilateral chamber of commerce include:
  • Provision of useful business contacts
  • Business services, including translation, interpreting and market research
  • Events and Networking opportunities
  • Business courses and seminars
  • Monitoring of new legislation proposals which might affect member's interests


See also



References

  1. Joseph Bucklin Bishop, A Chronicle of One Hundred and Fifty Years: The Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York 1768-1918 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1918), p. 1.
  2. Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, About Us, [online], available from http://www.glasgowchamberonline.org/page.asp?id=2, 27 October 2009.


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