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International Chamber of Commerce and Industry


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International Chamber of Commerce and Industry

General Presentation - main objectives and role of the ICC

History of International Chamber of Commerce

General Presentation of ICC

What is ICC?

ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) could be considered as the voice of world business championing the global economy as a force for economic growth, job creation and prosperity.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is an international organization that works to promote and support global trade and globalization. It serves as an advocate of world business in the global economy, in the interests of economic growth, job creation, and prosperity. As a global business organization, made up of member states, it helps the development of global outlooks on business matters. ICC has direct access to national governments worldwide through its national committees among others.

To attain this objective, ICC has developed a range of activities. The ICC International Court of Arbitration is the most respected service of its kind in the world. Its voluntary rule-writing for business spreads best practice in areas as varied as banking, marketing, anti-corruption and environmental management. Their policy-making and advocacy work keeps national governments, the United Nations system and other global bodies apprised of the views of the world business on some of the most pressing issues of the day.

Strengthens our reach into every corner of the globe and unites the global chamber movement under one roof. ICC's Commercial Crimes Services offers practical assistance to companies in preventing fraud and other malpractices. Our major new initiative, Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP), aims to spur governments into action by spreading awareness of the growing damage and danger of fake products.

Because national economies are now so closely interwoven, government decisions have far stronger international reper-cussions than in the past.

ICC - the world's only truly global business organization responds by being more assertive in expressing business views.

ICC activities cover a broad spectrum, from arbitration and dispute resolution to making the case for open trade and the market economy system, business self-regulation, fighting corruption or combating commercial crime.

ICC has direct access to national governments all over the world through its national committees. The organization's Paris-based international secretariat feeds business views into intergovernmental organizations on issues that directly affect business operations.

ICC is a pioneer in business self-regulation of e-commerce. ICC codes on advertising and marketing are frequently reflected in national legislation and the codes of professional associations.

The main functions of the ICC

- Setting rules and standards

Arbitration under the rules of the ICC International Court of Arbitration is on the increase. Since 1999, the Court has received new cases at a rate of more than 500 a year.

ICC's Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits (UCP 500) are the rules that banks apply to finance billions of dollars worth of world trade every year.

ICC Incoterms are standard international trade definitions used every day in countless thousands of contracts. ICC model contracts make life easier for small companies that cannot afford big legal departments.

- Promoting growth and prosperity

ICC supports government efforts to make a success of the Doha trade round. ICC provides world business recommendations to the World Trade Organization.

ICC speaks for world business when governments take up such issues as intellectual property rights, transport policy, trade law or the environment.

Signed articles by ICC leaders in major newspapers and radio and TV interviews reinforce the ICC stance on trade, investment and other business topics.

Every year, the ICC Presidency meets with the leader of the G8 host country to provide business input to the summit.

ICC is the main business partner of the United Nations and its agencies.

- Spreading business expertise

At UN summits on sustainable development, financing for development and the information society, ICC spearheads the business contribution.

Together with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), ICC helps some of the world's poorest countries to attract foreign direct investment.

In partnership with UNCTAD, ICC has set up an Investment Advisory Council for the least-developed countries.

ICC mobilizes business support for the New Partnership for Africa's Development. At ICC World Congresses every two years, business executives tackle the most urgent international economic issues.

The World Chambers Congress, also biennial, provides a global forum for chambers of commerce.

Regular ICC regional conferences focus on the concerns of business in Africa, Asia, the Arab World and Latin America.

- Advocate for international business

ICC speaks for world business whenever governments make decisions that crucially affect corporate strategies and the bottom line.

ICC's advocacy has never been more relevant to the interests of thousands of member  companies and business associations in every part of the world.

Equally vital is ICC's role in forging internationally agreed rules and standards that companies adopt voluntarily and can be incorporated in binding contracts.

ICC provides business input to the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and many other intergovernmental bodies, both international and regional.

History of International Chamber of Commerce

History of the chamber movement

The long history of the chamber movement can be traced back to 1599, when the term chamber of commerce' appeared for the first time, in Marseille, France.

Moving beyond individual interests to that of a collective group, the establishment of chambers provided merchants, traders, craftsmen and industrialists a public forum to discuss issues facing them as a business community. This representation of common interests became, and remains, the foundation of chambers of commerce worldwide.

Gaining acceptance from public authorities also helped the chamber cause. Public authorities rapidly established close dialogue with chambers, seeing them as the legitimate and institutionalized common voice of business.

Today, chambers of commerce exist in almost every country of the world.

Chambers of commerce today are diverse in name as in the business communities they represent. The word chamber' is still predominantly used in most countries. No longer just chambers of commerce' and industry', chambers are also including words like manufacturers', entrepreneurship', training', shipping', commodity exchanges', agriculture' to help reflect the community they serve.

Chambers have been established along bilateral lines (eg. Swedish British Chamber of Commerce) as well as community and special interest chamber groups eg. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce, and the Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Transnational associations of chambers are also a feature of our landscape, such as the Confederation of Asia Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Association of Latin American Chambers of Commerce and Industry.[1]

However, as diverse as the name has become, as well as the cross-section of interests they represent and their methods, the common goal remains - the support of business enterprises. Chambers are still the most important type of multi-sectoral business organizations in the world.

While chambers of commerce have evolved and grown based upon a nation's own historical context, two basic models prevail.

The continental' or public law' model is founded on the remains of medieval guilds. From its origins in France, chambers were established quickly across other European countries like Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Spain. This type of chamber is called 'public law' as it is established and regulated by national legislation. A key characteristic is that under most public law' chamber systems, membership is mandatory for all enterprises.

Public law chambers are generally found on the European continent as well as French speaking Africa and other former French colonies.  Other countries like North Korea, Bhutan, as well as the majority of Arab nations fall under this model. 

The predominate model in the world is the private law' or Anglo-Saxon' model originated in Great Britain and spread to other countries influenced by British tradition. It is also prominent in the Nordic countries.  Reflecting more the laissez faire' economic policies of these nations, chambers are established by the desires and needs of their local business community. These chambers are not created and governed by public statute, but are established under private law requiring only registration in the business or association registers.

Private law models are found in Great Britain, other countries of the British Commonwealth, North America, Scandinavia, Belgium and Switzerland.

While most chambers can be classified as one of these two models, some countries have incorporated features of both systems more compatible with their own political and economic development. Such hydrid models can be found in China, Cuba, Paraguay as well as other Latin American countries, Singapore and Vietnam. Though established by national legislation, the chambers operate with voluntary membership systems.[2]

The ICC's origins

The ICC was founded in 1919 to serve world business by promoting trade and investment, open markets for goods and services, and the free flow of capital. The organization's international secretariat was established in Paris and the ICC's International Court of Arbitration was created in 1923.

ICC's first president was Etienne Clmentel. In December 2004 the World Council elected Yong Sung Park as the Chairman of ICC, Marcus Wallenberg as the Vice-Chairman and Jean-Rene Fourtou as the Honorary Chairman. In June 2005, Guy Sebban was elected International Secretariat by the World Council.

Initially representing the private sectors of Belgium, Britain, France, Italy and the United States, it expanded to represent worldwide business organizations in around 130 countries.

The International Chamber of Commerce was founded with an overriding aim that remains unchanged: to serve world business by promoting trade and investment, open markets for goods and services, and the free flow of capital.

Much of ICC's initial impetus came from its first president, Etienne Clmentel, a former French minister of commerce. Under his influence, the organization's international secretariat was established in Paris and he was instrumental in creating the ICC International Court of Arbitration in 1923.

ICC has evolved beyond recognition since those early post-war days when business leaders from the allied nations met for the first time in Atlantic City. The original nucleus, representing the private sectors of Belgium, Britain, France, Italy and the United States, has expanded to become a world business organization with thousands of member companies and associations in around 130 countries. Members include many of the world's most influential companies and represent every major industrial and service sector.

The voice of international business

Traditionally, ICC has acted on behalf of business in making representations to governments and intergovernmental organizations. Three prominent ICC members served on the Dawes Commission which forged the international treaty on war reparations in 1924, seen as a breakthrough in international relations at the time.

A year after the creation of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945, ICC was granted the highest level consultative status with the UN and its specialized agencies. Ever since, it has ensured that the international business view receives due weight within the UN system and before intergovernmental bodies and meetings such as the G8 where decisions affecting the conduct of business are made.

Defender of the multilateral trading system

ICC's reach - and the complexity of its work - have kept pace with the globalization of business and technology. In the 1920s ICC focused on reparations and war debts. A decade later, it struggled vainly through the years of depression to hold back the tide of protectionism and economic nationalism. After war came in 1939, ICC assured continuity by transferring its operations to neutral Sweden.

In the post-war years, ICC remained a diligent defender of the open multilateral trading system. As membership grew to include more and more countries of the developing world, the organization stepped up demands for the opening of world markets to the products of developing countries. ICC continues to argue that trade is better than aid.

In the 1980s and the early 1990s, ICC resisted the resurgence of protectionism in new guises such as reciprocal trading arrangements, voluntary export restraints and curbs introduced under the euphemism of 'managed trade'.

Challenges of the 21st Century

After the disintegration of communism in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, ICC faced fresh challenges as the free market system won wider acceptance than ever before, and countries that had hitherto relied on state intervention switched to privatization and economic liberalization. As the world enters the 21st century, ICC is building a stronger presence in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and the emerging economies of eastern and central Europe.

Today, 16 ICC commissions of experts from the private sector cover every specialized field of concern to international business. Subjects range from banking techniques to financial services and taxation, from competition law to intellectual property rights, telecommunications and information technology, from air and maritime transport to international investment regimes and trade policy.

Self-regulation is a common thread running through the work of the commissions. The conviction that business operates most effectively with a minimum of government intervention inspired ICC's voluntary codes. Marketing codes cover sponsoring, advertising practice, sales promotion, marketing and social research, direct sales practice, and marketing on the Internet. Launched in 1991, ICC's Business Charter for Sustainable Development provides 16 principles for good environmental conduct that have been endorsed by more than 2300 companies and business associations.

Practical services to business

ICC keeps in touch with members all over the world through its conferences and biennial congresses - in 2004 the world congress was held in Marrakesh. As a member-driven organization, with national committees in 84 countries, it has adapted its structures to meet the changing needs of business. Many of them are practical services, like the ICC International Court of Arbitration, which is the longest established ICC institution. The Court is the world's leading body for resolving international commercial disputes by arbitration. In 2004 561 Requests for Arbitration were filed with the ICC Court, concerning 1 682 parties from 116 different countries and independent territories.

The first Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits came out in 1933 and the latest version, UCP 500, came into effect in January 1994. These rules are used by banks throughout the world. A supplement to UCP 500, called the eUCP, was added in 2002 to deal with the presentation of all electronic or part electronic documents. In 1936, the first nine Incoterms were published, providing standard definitions of universally employed terms like Ex quay, CIF and FOB, and whenever necessary they are revised. Incoterms 2000 came into force on 1 January 2000.

In 1951 the International Bureau of Chambers of Commerce (IBCC) was created. It quickly became a focal point for cooperation between chambers of commerce in developing and industrial countries, and took on added importance as chambers of commerce of transition economies responded to the stimulus of the market economy. In 2001, on the occasion of the 2nd World Chambers Congress in Korea, IBCC was renamed the World Chambers Federation (WCF), clarifying WCF as the world business organization's department for chamber of commerce affairs. WCF also administers the ATA Carnet system for temporary duty-free imports, a service delivered by chambers of commerce, which started in 1958 and is now operating in over 57 countries.

Another ICC service, the Institute for World Business Law was created in 1979 to study legal issues relating to international business. At the Cannes film festival every year, the Institute holds a conference on audiovisual law.

The fight against commercial crime

In the early 1980s, ICC set up three London-based services to combat commercial crime: the International Maritime Bureau, dealing with all types of maritime crime; the Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau; and the Financial Investigation Bureau. A cybercrime unit was added in 1998. An umbrella organization, ICC Commercial Crime Services, coordinates the activities of the specialized anti-crime services.

All these activities fulfil the pledge made in a key article of the ICC's constitution: 'to assure effective and consistent action in the economic and legal fields in order to contribute to the harmonious growth and the freedom of international commerce.'


The ICC World Council is the equivalent of the general assembly of a major intergovernmental organization. The big difference is that the delegates are business executives and not government officials. There is a federal structure, based on the Council as ICC's supreme governing body. National committees name delegates to the Council, which normally meets twice a year. Ten direct members - from countries where there is no national committee - may also be invited to participate in the Council's work.

National committees and groups

They represent the ICC in their respective countries. The national committees and groups make sure that ICC takes account of their national business concerns in its policy recommendations to governments and international organizations.

The Chairmanship and Executive Board

The Council elects the Chairman and Vice-Chairman for two-year terms. The Chairman, his immediate predecessor and the Vice-Chairman form the Chairmanship. The Council also elects the Executive Board, responsible for implementing ICC policy, on the Chairman's recommendation. The Executive Board has between 15 and 30 members, who serve for three years, with one third retiring at the end of each year.

Secretary General

The Secretary General heads the International Secretariat and works closely with the national committees to carry out ICC's work programme. The Secretary General is appointed by the Council at the initiative of the Presidency and on the recommendation of the Executive Board.


Member companies and business associations can shape the ICC stance on any given business issue by participating in the work of ICC commissions. Commissions are the bedrock of ICC, composed of a total of more than 500 business experts who give freely of their time to formulate ICC policy and elaborate its rules. Commissions scrutinize proposed international and national government initiatives affecting their subject areas and prepare business positions for submission to international organizations and governments.

Working with the United Nations

Since 1946, ICC has engaged in a broad range of activities with the United Nations and its specialized agencies. In addition, ICC has actively participated in global UN conferences such as the Conference on Financing for Development, the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the World Summit on the Information Society. Throughout the years ICC has been actively involved in the work of The Economic and Social Council, the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Commission for Social Development, the UN Information and Communication Task Force, the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the UN Commission on International Trade Law, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the UN World Aids Campaign among others.

ICC membership groups thousands of companies of every size in over 130 countries worldwide. They represent a broad cross-section of business activity including manufacturing, trade, services and the professions. Through membership of ICC, companies shape rules and policies that stimulate international trade and investment. These companies in turn count on the prestige and expertise of ICC to get business views across to governments and intergovernmental organizations, whose decisions affect corporate finances and operations worldwide.

Who can become a member of  ICC?

- Corporations and companies in all sectors;

- National professional and sectoral associations;

- Business and employers federations;

- Law firms and consultancies;

- Chambers of commerce;

- Individuals involved in international business.

How does ICC membership work for you?

ICC members belong to an organization representing businesses from all sectors all over the world. ICC is the only world business organization. It promotes business enterprise and investment as the most effective way of raising living standards and creating wealth. ICC works for the liberalization of trade and investment within the multilateral trading system.

Being a member of ICC enables you to take part in the work of ICC's commissions and special working groups, composed of a total of more than 500 business experts who regularly meet to scrutinize proposed international and government initiatives affecting their subject areas. Members of ICC learn what really matters for their companies at an early stage and win time to make the right decisions.

Through ICC's many working bodies, members shape ICC's policy and elaborate its rules. ICC gives priority to the issues that most urgently concern its members. It is the members who set ICC's agenda.

ICC members are at the forefront of business self-regulation. ICC is world leader in setting voluntary rules, standards and codes for the conduct of international trade that are accepted by all business sectors and observed in thousands of transactions every day.

Member companies and business associations are instrumental in the development of such key international trading instruments as Incoterms, the Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credit (UCP 500) and GUIDEC (a set of guidelines for ensuring trustworthy digital transactions over the Internet).

ICC's privileged links with major international organizations, including the UN and its specialized agencies and the World Trade Organization, allow the organization to effectively represent the interests of its members in international fora. ICC members prepare business positions for submission to international organizations and also, through ICC's global network of national committees, to governments.

By being part of ICC, members gain influence both at national and international level.

ICC offers members many of the advantages of belonging to a prestigious club and the chance to forge business relationships at the highest level at exclusive ICC events.

How to join ICC

There are two ways to become a member of ICC:

1. Through affiliation with an ICC national committee or group (please click on the relevant part of the map to find national committees in your area);

2. By direct membership with the ICC International Secretariat when a national committee/group has not yet been established in your country/territory.

What is the cost of  ICC membership?

National committees pay an annual subscription to ICC's International Secretariat in Paris to meet the organization's administrative expenses. The rate is proportionate to the economic importance of the country they represent. National committees are financially independent of the central body and are free to establish the level of their own membership subscriptions.

Direct members fall into two categories with their annual dues as follows:

- 1500 EUR (approximately US$1500) per year for 'local' members, i.e. local chambers of commerce, local companies, professional individuals;

- 3000 EUR (approximately US$3000) per year for 'national' members, i.e. national chambers of commerce, national trade associations, national business organizations, as well as companies with a predominant international activity, and occupying a leading position in the country.

Who can establish a national committee?

Business and trade associations as well as individual companies and firms can apply for approval from ICC's World Council to establish an ICC national committee.

The ICC World Council considers the following criteria before giving its approval:

- Members of the proposed national committee must represent the main economic forces in the country concerned, which in turn should adhere to market economy principles;

- The national committee must be able to participate regularly and effectively in ICC's work.


The Anti-Corruption Commission encourages self-regulation by enterprises in confronting issues of extortion and bribery and provides business input into international initiatives to fight corruption.

Bribe solicitation

ICC has long argued that fighting corruption requires action against extortion as much as against bribery. Without effective action to address the 'demand side' of corruption, the fight against corrupt ion cannot be won. ICC's Commission on Anti-Corruption, in cooperation with ICC's specialized division Commercial Crime Services, is currently exploring ways to establish a facility where companies can voluntarily and anonymously report attempts of bribe solicitation by public officials.

Private Commercial Bribery

 In 2003, ICC and Germany's Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law jointly published a comparative study of private-sector anti-bribery laws in 13 OECD countries.Besides analyzing existing international instruments, the study covers the law in the Czech Republic, England and Wales, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.
The project focuses on the criminal, civil and administrative measures against the bribery of public officials. The criminalization of private-sector bribery, especially if international aspects are present, is a recent development; there is no unanimity about the policy goal(s) which private-sector bribery law should vindicate. Regarding the use of civil law and its remedies as a method of compensating for private-sector bribery, the reports reflect a spectrum of results suggesting that general principles of tort/fault law have not always been implemented or vindicated in this field. The study also inquires about practices to stem private-sector bribery present in regulatory measures and/or developed internally by business enterprises.

Private-to-Private bribery

Private-to-Private bribery refers to corrupt practices within and between enterprises.

It occurs, for example, when an employee accepts the advantage granted to him by a person from outside of the company, without informing the corporate bodies or persons.

As a consequence the corrupted executive's or manager's freedom of judgement is abdicated in return for money (or other considerations).

There is a significant risk that purchases will be made at overstated prices (in order to recover the bribes) and under unfavourable conditions, and that the product sold will not be of the optimal, or even required, quality.

SMEs and the fight against corruption

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are very often solicited for 'extra payments' from the lower ranks of bureaucracy and potential buy ers of their goods and services.  They often feel cornered and do not know what to do.

They know that:

- it would be easy for the buyer to find an alternative source of supply;

- they are too small to be heard by top-management of the buyers company;

- they lack the legal expertise and management resources to file a complaint;

- they are too small to be heard by politicians and other authorities.

ICC's Commission on Anti-Corruption is currently exploring ways to assist SMEs in addressing anti-corruption issues and compliance procedures.

A chapter of the ICC publication Fighting Corruption: A Corporate Practices Manual is especially dedicated to the problems faced by SMEs. It provides guidance to SMEs for developing anti-bribery compliance programmes with limited time and resources.

ICC Rules of Conduct and Recommendations for Combating Extortion and Bribery (2005 edition):

First published in 1977, last revised in 2005 (major changes from the 2005 edition), the ICC Rules outline the basic measures companies should take to prevent corruption. These Rules of Conduct are intended as a method of self-regulation by international business. Although they are without direct legal effect, the Rules of Conduct constitute what is considered good commercial practice in the matters to which they relate.

Edward D. Re, Chief judge Emeritus of the United States Court of International Trade, New York Law Journal, 1998.

A worldwide history of the chamber of commerce movement is currently being written by the WCF. Chambers are encouraged to send any information they may have on the chamber movement in their region to help us with the development and regular revisions of this document

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