What is a 'Chamber of Commerce'

A chamber of commerce is an association or network of businesspeople designed to promote and protect the interests of its members. A chamber of commerce, also known as a "board of trade," is often made up of a group of business owners that share a locale or interests, but can also be international in scope. They will choose leadership, name representatives and debate which policies to espouse and promote. Chambers of commerce exist all over the world. They do not have a direct role in creating laws or regulations, though they may be effective in influencing regulators and legislators with their organized lobbying efforts.

Breaking Down 'Chamber of Commerce'

The first chamber of commerce was founded in France in 1599. The first one in the United States started in New York in 1768. The United States Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1912 and promotes pro-business issues via lobbying efforts at the national level. At the state, city, regional and local levels chambers focus on issues and advocacy relevant to their individual membership. Such chambers may or may not be affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce through a Federation Partnership Program. The national chamber tends to support conservative politicians and is the largest lobbying group in the U.S. Chambers of commerce differ from trade groups or trade associations, which promote a specific industry.

Chamber of Commerce Membership Benefits

Among the benefits chamber members receive are deals and discounts from other chamber members, listing in a member directory and a variety of other programs and services designed to promote business activity in a region. Chambers of commerce also play an important role in local municipalities in promoting business activity and representing chamber members. At least at the local level, chamber of commerce members often meet to discuss and attempt to shape policy that relates to the business and overall economic environment. Members also receive the distinction of being a preferred local vendor, as well as listing on various municipal websites and literature.

Chamber of Commerce Formats

Chambers of commerce may follow several different formats. For example:

  • Regional, city and community chambers: Focused on regional or local issues featuring cooperation with local government, but may also promote broader pro-business initiatives that cross borders, such as promoting trade between immigrant groups and their home country.
  • City chambers: Aim to promote a city's economic interest locally and possibly globally.
  • State chambers: In the U.S., these chambers focus on statewide and sometimes national advocacy, and therefore have greater influence over regulation and legislation.
  • National or international chambers: Focus on advocacy or lobbying for national or broader issues.
  • Compulsory chambers: In some countries businesses of a certain size are required to join a chamber of commerce, which provides a degree of self-regulation, as well as promotes member businesses, supports economic development and oversees worker training. Such chambers are popular in Europe and Japan.

In some countries chambers of commerce provide key economic data by surveying their membership. For example, the British Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey is used by the government to gauge the health of the economy.

  1. John T. Chambers

    The president and CEO of Cisco Systems, a consumer electronics, ...
  2. Commerce

    Commerce refers to the exchange of goods, services or something ...
  3. International Chamber Of Commerce ...

    The International Chamber Of Commerce is the largest global business ...
  4. Department of Commerce

    The Department of Commerce is the cabinet department in the U.S. ...
  5. Promoter

    A promoter is an individual or company that, for a fee, helps ...
  6. Social Commerce

    A type of electronic commerce that employs social media to promote ...
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Cisco Exec Speaks to Trump Uncertainty at WEF

    Former Cisco CEO John Chambers says he doubled down on the market after Trump was elected.
  2. Investing

    Business Groups Increasingly Turn Against Tobacco

    Local chambers highlight smoking's effect on productivity, supporting higher cigarette taxes.
  3. Small Business

    Cisco to Invest $100M in India’s Digital Push (CSCO, ORCL)

    Cisco's investment follows that of Oracle, which in February, announced a $400 million expansion of its India facility.
  4. Investing

    Cisco Ex-CEO Invests in New Anti-Drone Startup

    John Chambers led Dedrone's latest Series B. The company aims to guard against malicious drones.
  5. Insights

    What Does the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Do?

    The Commerce Secretary overseas a vast business and commerce engine that drives the U.S. economy.
  6. Managing Wealth

    4 Billionaires You Probably Haven't Heard Of

    Find out the details behind the fortunes of these low-profile billionaires.
  7. Investing

    Disney, Florida Union to Restart Talks: Report

    Disney and its 38K union workers in Florida are gearing up to restart wage talks later this week.
  8. Investing

    Which Industry Spends the Most on Lobbying?

    All major companies have lobbyists gunning for their interests in DC. Here is a breakdown of the top spenders on lobbying.
  9. Investing

    Foreign Firms Face Increasing Barriers in China

    Foreign firms are facing increasing protectionism and uncertainty regarding intellectual rights protection when expanding into China.
  10. Personal Finance

    The 10 Richest Women In The United States (WMT, AAPL)

    We provide an overview of America's 10 richest women, the sources of their wealth, and their professional and philanthropic activities.
  1. What major laws regulating financial institutions were created in response to the ...

    Read about the major federal responses to the financial crisis of 2008, such as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act and ... Read Answer >>
  2. What is the role of the nation-state in globalization?

    Learn about the evolving role of the nation-state in an increasingly globalized world as fewer boundaries restrict international ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Gross Profit

    Gross profit is the profit a company makes after deducting the costs of making and selling its products, or the costs of ...
  2. Diversification

    Diversification is the strategy of investing in a variety of securities in order to lower the risk involved with putting ...
  3. Intrinsic Value

    Intrinsic value is the perceived or calculated value of a company, including tangible and intangible factors, and may differ ...
  4. Current Assets

    Current assets is a balance sheet item that represents the value of all assets that can reasonably expected to be converted ...
  5. Volatility

    Volatility measures how much the price of a security, derivative, or index fluctuates.
  6. Money Market

    The money market is a segment of the financial market in which financial instruments with high liquidity and very short maturities ...
Trading Center