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For over a century, traders across the world have advocated the Chamber of Commerce and relied on it to facilitate fair business. In this article, we look at what the Chamber of Commerce is, what service it provides importers and exporters, and the benefits of becoming a member.

The global network

The Chamber of Commerce is like a worldwide government for businesses with a head office in Paris called the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The ICC regulates branches all over the world to facilitate business according to its standards. These standards are high and must be met for any business to become and remain a member of their local branch. South Africa is one of 9 African countries that has a national committee. ICC South Africa in turn acts as a governing body over regional chapters based across the country which we have listed below.

The Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce & Industry (JCCI), established in April 1890, was the first of its kind in Africa.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) itself was founded in 1919 with an overriding air that remains unchanged, and that is to serve world business by promoting trade and investment. In these early post-war days, allied nations met for the first time in Atlantic City. This meeting consisted of representatives from Britain, the USA, Belgium, France, and Italy. A century later the ICC consists of thousands of members from 130 countries.

The International Chamber of Commerce is the main business partner of the United Nations (UN) and provides world business recommendations to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The benefits of Chamber of Commerce membership

Membership in a local Chamber of Commerce is attainable by any size of business and comes at a low cost compared to the benefits.

The major perks of membership are:

  1. Implied honest business standards

With international trade, it is difficult to know which companies have good business ethics and which should be avoided. One thing is certain though; a company that practices unethical business is not going to belong to the Chamber of Commerce.

Membership approval is reliant on referrals from business connections, and the Chamber of Commerce runs on one rule, “if a company is caught being dishonest, they get kicked out”. Business people can’t afford to get named and shamed in this way. To get shunned by the Chamber of Commerce is a harsh blow to their reputation and difficult to recover from. Therefore, a trader can minimize risks in business by working with members of any Chamber of Commerce.

Likewise, if your company is a member of your local Chamber of Commerce you have automatic international credibility.

  1. Assistance is finding trade partners

Each economic region in the world has a Chamber of Commerce. If you are sourcing goods internationally, you may request that the Chamber of Commerce in any part of the world inform its members that you are looking to buy a particular product.

Sellers can also contact any Chamber of Commerce in the world as a means of reaching potential buyers. Networking forms a large part of the Chamber of Commerce’s operations, and representatives often go as far as brokering an introduction between mutually benefitting businesses.

Chamber of Commerce services and standards

Besides business connections, the Chamber of Commerce has added value to international trade by developing the following global standards.

Incoterms – An international system of commercial terms that allocates risk, cost, and responsibility in the fulfillment of international sales. Read more about incoterms here.

Certificates of Origin – A globally recognised validation of product origin for the sake of international sales.

Trade agreements, which are agreements between countries that lower import duty rates to promote trade, generally require certificates of origin as proof that the benefit of a preferential rate goes to the right country.

As opposed to certificates of origin pertaining to trade agreements, Chamber of Commerce certificates verify that goods are of an origin that implies a certain quality. E.g. Real South African wine, real Italian gelato, etc. These certificates do not affect the duty rate, but add a marketing benefit to the goods.

Contact us for more information on Chamber of Commerce certificates of origin, or acquire a certificate for your next export here.

ATA Carnet – Allowance to temporarily import a product. E.g. A demo model to show at a trade fair. Read more about ATA Carnet’s here.

Rules of Arbitration – An internationally applicable arbitration system for resolving disputes between businesses.

Lobbying – The Chamber of Commerce generally has a strong voice in matters of local government and may raise concerns on behalf of members of industry.

UCP600 – The International Chamber of Commerce Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits. The banks apply this method of payment to finance cargo throughout the world.

Services Bureaus – In the early 1980’s, the International Chamber of Commerce set up three London-based services to combat commercial crime.

1)            The International Maritime Bureau, deals with all types of maritime crime.

2)            The Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau

3)            the Commercial Crime Bureau

4)            In 1998 a cybercrime unit was added.

Contact your local Chamber of Commerce for information regarding membership

South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry - SACCI
Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Cape Chamber)
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber
Border-Kei Chamber of Businessr
Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Middleburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry
George Business Chamber
Manguang Chamber of Commerce and Industry
West Rand Chamber of Business and Tourism
Randburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Roodepoort Chamber of Commerce and Industry
iLembe Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Tourism
Pietermaritzburg and Midlands Chamber of Business
Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism
Wesvaal Chamber of Business
Oudtshoorn Chamber of Business
Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Speaking of great connections in trade; our customs consultants are here to assist you with all the registrations, services, and advice you need to start a successful import export venture.

Tracy Venter

Tracy transitioned from industry to founding Import Export License in 2011, aiding importers and exporters with customs compliance. In 2014, she launched Trade Logistics, focusing on supporting startups and SMMEs in international trade. Since then, Tracy's team has assisted 35,000+ businesses, reaching 32,000 traders monthly through newsletters. She's contributed to publications like Entrepreneurs Magazine and SME Toolkit, spoken at trade events, and participated in customs forums. Import Export License helped with the pilot trial to launch customs' new online registration platform (RLA). Through Trade Logistics she has launched 3 online import-export training courses. She holds an Honours degree from Stellenbosch University and a Cum Laude Masters from Middlesex University. In her spare time, Tracy enjoys running, mountain biking, playing piano, and cherishing moments with her husband and four children.