Chambers of commerce play a key role in shaping local, national and international business dynamics and represent the business community in their work relating to relevant policy and government regulations
The first chamber of commerce was reportedly founded in Marseille, France in 1599. Another similar organization followed in its footsteps a good 65 years later in the region that was then known as the Spanish Netherlands, while the first and world’s oldest English-speaking chambers of commerce, the Jersey Chamber and the New York City Chamber, were both founded in 1768. It is obvious that as the market grew in these regions, the necessity to form business networks, whose goal was to further the interests of businesses and advocate on their behalf, became apparent.
Since then, the concept and role of a chamber of commerce has matured further. Today, all countries that engage in trade have in one form or another well-established local and bilateral chambers of commerce that function as voluntary associations of business firms belonging to different trades and industries, and serve as spokesmen and representatives of the local business community. Chambers of commerce work with volunteers from the academic community, as well as member corporations and organizations, who serve on committees, task forces, and councils to develop and implement policy on major issues affecting business and strengthen the competitiveness of the local economy.
As non-governmental institutions, chambers of commerce have no direct role in the writing and passage of laws and regulations that affect businesses. Nevertheless, they may lobby in an attempt to get laws passed that are favorable to businesses and citizens. This involvement in the policymaking process is indeed a fundamental part of the true role of a chamber of commerce.
Established in 1932, the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce is one of the largest and most active American chambers in Europe. It is a wholly autonomous, not-for-profit organization and receives no subsidy from any government body. With a corporate membership of some 1,000 companies operating in Greece, from which committee members are drawn representing a broad scope of the nation’s ideological and political spectrum, AmCham covers every segment of the economy and includes business organizations of every size in every part of the country.
AmCham’s well-developed committees meet regularly and actively participate in the policy process as they comprise experts in various subject areas, who bring to the table their know-how and credibility.
To name one example, the Taxation Committee of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce has had the opportunity and the ability to develop policy positions by arriving at a consensus on important issues and bringing it forward to the policymakers. The committee’s involvement in this process ensures that policymaking is a democratic endeavor and helps develop positions that benefit the entire business community, rather than any given narrow interest.
It is of paramount importance to the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce to continue serving the interests of the community with integrity, and this is a responsibility shared by the BoD, staff, committee chairs, and each committee member.