The history of the International Chamber of Commerce – ICC Russia

The International Chamber of Commerce – The World Business Organization (ICC) is an influential non-profit organization which was established in 1919 with a view to settling pressing business development problems. Having integrated thousands of enterprises and business associations from 120 countries, ICC remains committed to its goal. In 1919, a few entrepreneurs decided to set up an organization which was to act in the name of business communities across the world. Back then, a group of pioneers from the areas of industry, finance and trade made a firm decision to promote economic prosperity in a world still recovering from the damage of World War I. They, the self-declared ‘merchants of peace’, established the International Chamber of Commerce.

In the early 20th century, there were few international structures with similar functions. What is more, there was no unified international system for regulating trade and investments, or financial and commercial relations. Filling this void by means of the private sector, with no state support, was the main principle of the ICC’s ‘founding fathers’. Although they might not have realized it back then, the founders of the International Chamber of Commerce had set up an organization which would become an inherent part of the world economy. Over many years ICC has been playing a leading role in international trade and business. Today rules, mechanisms and standards continue to be established under the auspices of the World Business Organization, in an environment far more complex than in 1919.

With time, the group of forward-looking entrepreneurs from five countries extended the capabilities of ICC by turning it into a platform for hundreds of thousands of members in more than 120 countries. As of now, the ICC community embraces a significant number of the biggest transnational corporations as well as small enterprises.

The majority of the ICC pioneers were engaged by its first President Étienne Clémentel who, in other periods of time, occupied various ministerial seats in the Cabinet of France. It was under his leadership that the Secretariat of this organization gained its foothold in Paris. Étienne Clémentel is also known as the main founder of the ICC International Court of Arbitration in 1923.

In the 1920s, the International Chamber of Commerce was mainly focused on reparations and war debts. In the 1930s, as the new world war was about to break out, the World Business Organization committed itself to overcoming the global economic depression and curbing protectionism.

In 1933, ICC issued the first version of the Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits, which have not lost their relevance in trade financing activities performed by banks around the world. Another trailblazing project Incoterms® - the international trade terms which are familiar to every trader - launched in 1936 and have until the present day been updated when necessary. In succeeding years, ICC produced the first version of the International Code of Advertising Practice.

In 1946, ICC was granted the highest consultative status by the United Nations, which opened the way for cooperation with the UN and its specialized agencies as a business representative on a wide range of issues.

Over many years, ICC has been a staunch advocate of the open multilateral trade system and, among other things, has consistently articulated its view on the Doha Round of negotiations. As more and more developing countries are becoming members of the International Chamber of Commerce, the organization has elevated its demands that international markets must open for the outputs of their production, particularly crops.

Striving to meet the requirements of its members, the World Business Organization is constantly widening the scope of its activities. In 1950 the World Chambers Federation was set up on the initiative of ICC and is currently fulfilling a centralizing function for more than 12 thousand trade chambers around the world. Another subdivision of this organization – the ICC Commercial Crime Services – was established by the International Chamber of Commerce in London in 1980 with a view to investigating and dealing with all aspects of commercial crimes. 

2004 saw the launch of a new and very important initiative; BASCAP (Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy), which was established to coordinate the efforts of the business community aimed at actively resisting the spread of counterfeit and pirated production. As ICC’s BASCAP initiative unfolded further it succeeded in consolidating the efforts of the biggest companies considered to be driving forces of the international economy, such as Apple, Chanel, Hewlett Packard, Lacoste, Microsoft, NBC Universal, Nestle, Nike, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Shell International, Unilever, Universal Music among others.

As of now, 13 ICC commissions which have gathered together experts from various economic areas encompass a number of specific spheres which are of genuine interest for international business. ICC interests appear so multifarious that they embrace a wide range of issues from banking practice to taxation, from competition law to intellectual property rights, from transport, the environment and energy to international investments and trade policy:

●             Arbitration and ADR (Arbitration and Alternate Dispute Resolution)

●             Banking (Banking Commission)

●             Commercial Law and Practice (Commission on Commercial Law and Practice)

●             Competition (Commission on Competition)

●             Corporate Responsibility and Anti-corruption (Commission on Corporate Responsibility and Anti-corruption)

●             Commission on Customs and Trade Facilitation (Commission on Customs and Trade Facilitation)

●             Digital Economy (Commission on the Digital Economy)

●             Environment and Energy (Commission on Environment and Energy)

●             Intellectual Property (Commission on Intellectual Property)

●             Marketing and Advertising (Commission on Marketing and Advertising)

●             Taxation (Commission on Taxation)

●             Trade and Investment Policy (Commission on Trade and Investment Policy)

●             Group on Economic Policy (Group on Economic Policy Issues)

Thus, all activities of the World Business Organization are aimed at fulfilling its main obligation which is set forth in the ICC Constitution: ‘to foster an open international economy with the firm belief that international trade exchange contributes to international prosperity and peace between the nations’