AmChams and the Chamber of Commerce of the USA®

 

U.S. companies urged to join and support AmChams abroad

What Are AmChams?

An American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) abroad is a voluntary association of American enterprises doing business in a given country as well as firms and business executives of that country who operate in the United States. As members of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, AmChams benefit from innumerable services and privileges adhering to National Chamber membership.

US Chamber Web StickerSince 1996, AmCham Vietnam has been an Organization Member of the Chamber of Commerce of the USA®.

AmChams are formed to advance the interests and views of American business overseas, to uphold the highest standards of commercial practice, and to interpret the point of view of other countries to the American business public. Through AmChams, business persons of the United States and host countries come together and promote their mutual interests.

What AmChams Do

The major activity of an AmCham is to provide service to member firms and business executives who support the organization. Typical AmCham services may include:

  • export-import trade leads, for example
  • helping U.S. firms find a distributor in Vietnam.
  • business and government contacts
  • luncheon and dinner meetings featuring U.S. and foreign business leaders and officials
  • periodic news bulletins and other publications
  • information clearinghouse on trade, investment, commerce
  • information center for customs duties, tariffs, regulations
  • library and reference facilities for member use
  • participation in activities of the U.S. Chamber

Why Join AmChams

Firms and business executives join an AmCham for different reasons. Many join to enhance community goodwill, without concern for immediate benefit to themselves. Others join for the services they may expect from the chamber, which vary according to their requirements. Most companies join AmChams for the same reason they join local chambers in the United States, to meet people, make business contacts and exchange information useful to their business. In addition, American concerns often need special assistance in foreign countries where the language, laws, regulations, and customs may be unfamiliar.

AmChams fill a genuine need in today’s world of expanding overseas trade. Recognizing their value in fostering good international commercial relations, the U.S. Chamber urges American firms interested in international trade and investment to support AmChams by becoming members and actively participating in their vital work.

Principles to govern American Chambers of Commerce abroad

Adopted by the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States
March 21, 1947

American Chambers of Commerce Abroad (AMCHAMS) should not accept financial aid from any government, since such aid inevitably carries a degree of governmental supervision and control, and such supervision and control are not desirable or consistent with the independence considered essential for American commercial organizations. No subsidies or contributions should be accepted from any source which would tend to prevent American Chambers of Commerce Abroad from having the freedom of action which is necessary in the promotion of American interests in general.

Close contacts should be maintained by such organizations with the representatives of our government and the sympathy and support of our government and its representatives should be accorded to all American Chambers of Commerce Abroad, which conform to the standards herein established, in the conduct of their operations. To that end, active membership should consist of American citizens and American controlled firms, and citizens and firms of other countries who are engaged in commercial trade between the United States of America and the country in which the Chamber is located, and who are in sympathy with the policies of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States.

The President, First Vice President and a majority of the Board of Directors of an American Chamber of Commerce Abroad should be American Citizens and the constitution and bylaws should provide that any questions of policy or any proposed amendments should be approved by the Board of Directors before acted upon.

Membership for AmChams in the Chamber of Commerce of the USA®

Amendment of February 19, 1981

In order to qualify for membership in the U.S. Chamber, such organizations must comply with the “Principles to Govern American Chambers of Commerce Abroad” as approved by the U.S. Chamber’s Board of Directors in 1947 . These principles were first developed at the request of, and in cooperation with, AmChams.

As the number of American citizens working for U.S. business abroad continues to decline, the U.S. Chamber has taken into account the fact that today many American firms abroad are represented by non-American citizens.

Therefore, the following organizational characteristics have been deemed acceptable in accordance with the current interpretation of the “principles.”

1) AmChams may have a non-U.S. citizen as President as long as the First Vice President is an American citizen, or the President is a corporate representative of a U.S.-controlled firm;

2) AmChams may have a majority of non-U.S. citizens on their Board of Directors as long as a majority are representatives of U.S.-controlled firms;

3) AmChams need not have U.S. citizens serving simultaneously as President and First Vice President as long as the AmCham bylaws require alternating the citizenship of the President (American vs non-American) every other year; and

4) AmChams may have non-U.S. citizens serving simultaneously as President and Vice President as long as one is a representative of a U.S.-controlled firm and the Board approves the nomination in advance.

JOINT MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
The AmCham-U.S. Chamber Working Relationship

The purpose of this memorandum is to define the nature and characteristics of the working relationship that exists between the Chamber of Commerce of the United States and its member American Chambers of Commerce abroad (AmChams). Further, it is a joint understanding between AmChams and the U.S. Chamber as to the 1) nature and scope of this relationship; 2) parameters for policy and program development and implementation; 3) communications and information exchange; and 4) administrative services and coordination.

Essential Facts About AmChams and the U.S. Chamber

AmChams are voluntary associations of business executives and professionals who, through a wide spectrum of activities, work to:

  • develop mutually beneficial economic relations between the United States and host countries;
  • foster the beneficial aspects of private enterprise abroad;
  • promote local economic and social contributions for the benefit of host countries; and
  • monitor U.S. legislation and executive branch policies that affect the competitiveness of U.S. business abroad.

Today, there are 102 AmChams abroad that are members of the U.S. Chamber. By virtue of membership in the U.S. Chamber, each AmCham is entitled to a variety of services and may call upon the U.S. Chamber for assistance on certain country specific issues. In addition, through the regional organizations of the Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce (APCAC), Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA), the European Council of American Chambers of Commerce (ECACC), and the American Business Council of the Gulf Countries (ABCGC), the U.S. Chamber provides assistance on certain issues of regional significance.

It is important to note that the Chamber’s bylaws require that its policies and programs must be confined to matters that are “national in character, timely in importance and general in application and of significance to business and industry.” Toward this end, the following basic principles are followed:

  • The Chamber should not be placed in, or assume the role of a “special pleader” on behalf of a particular industry or geographical area by taking a stand on an issue of concern only to that industry or area, and
  • The Chamber should avoid intervention in narrow issues of intra-industry nature, such as matters that concern only a particular group or segment within an industry.

In accordance with the above principles, the U.S. Chamber may not be able to support certain industry specific or country specific concerns that come to it from AmChams. However, if the issue is of sufficient importance to the several AmChams of a particular region, it is usually possible for the U.S. Chamber to lend its support on the basis that the matter has broader, worldwide ramifications for U.S. business and industry.

The International Division of the U.S. Chamber is primarily responsible for U.S. Chamber liaison with individual AmChams and their regional organizations. This division, headed by LtGen (ret) Dan Christman, Senior Vice President, International Affairs, has several regional vice presidents, many of whom work directly with AmChams. The vice presidents are:

  • East Asia: Myron Brilliant
  • Europe and Eurasia: Gary Litman
  • South Asia, Africa, & Middle East: Herbert Davis
  • Western Hemisphere: John Murphy (also Executive Vice President, AACCLA)

With the general increase of AmCham interests in policies and issues pursued by the U.S. Chamber and vice versa, areas of common interest have expanded considerably. Whereas only a few years ago AmChams might have been interested in only one or two issues followed by the U.S. Chamber, today AmCham and U.S. Chamber interests converge on many more areas, including:

  • Export expansion and controls
  • The European Union, its enlargement
  • Bilateral trade agreements and ongoing negotiations, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Free Trade Area of the Americas
  • Foreign investment regulations
  • New market potential in Eurasia
  • International tax policy (Section 911)
  • Multilateral trade negotiations (WTO)
  • International finance and international financial institutions
  • Economic sanctions

Nature and Scope of the AmCham-U.S. Chamber Relationship

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is committed to providing the American Chambers of
Commerce with current information on U.S. legislative and policy developments. This is
accomplished primarily through informal, regular communication between the U.S. Chamber directors above and the AmCham staff. Many AmChams also subscribe to the U.S. Chamber’s daily e-mail, The Latest on Chamber Issues, which provides a capsule look at current legislation under the consideration of either house of Congress, administration follow-up and/or positions, and U.S. Chamber activities.

For their part, AmChams provide the U.S. Chamber with a unique membership perspective compared to other national business organizations in the United States. AmCham viewpoints on policy issues are important to the U.S. Chamber’s policy committees, task forces and working groups. Representatives of the regional organizations of the AmChams are permanent members of the International Policy Committee which guides the policy and program development of the Chamber’s international activities and provide input to the development of the Chamber’s National Business Agenda. With the perspective of American businesses operating abroad, the U.S. Chamber is uniquely situated to represent, on major international issues, the combined views of U.S. corporate headquarters and the views of Americans working for these corporations abroad.

AmChams and the U.S. Chamber agree on a wide range of activities and policies. On
occasion, there are certain—perhaps inevitable—differences in policies or activities and the priority attached to them. It is recognized that the common task is to work toward the development of mutual objectives and programs, while recognizing that a consensus may not always be possible.

Policy Development and Implementation

To effectively and accurately represent the views of its broad membership, it is agreed that AmChams must be involved in the U.S. Chamber’s policy development process. In this connection, the International Division has institutionalized arrangements to facilitate AmCham participation, including:

1. The automatic appointment of AmCham regional organization chairmen to the U.S. Chamber’s International Policy Committee. AmCham representatives are invited to join relevant strategy and policy meetings whenever they are in Washington. (Meetings are usually held in January, May and October of each year.)

2. The U.S. Chamber’s AmCham coordinators regularly attend AmCham regional organization meetings to ensure proper understanding of AmCham positions on current and prospective issues and problems. Typically, the coordinator will also visit two or three AmChams in countries within the geographic proximity of the meeting location. The Chamber’s senior staff, including the President and Chief Executive Officer; Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President; and Senior Vice President for International Affairs, travel abroad several times each year to visit key trading partners and maintain communications with U.S. corporate interests abroad.

3. U.S. Chamber staff analyzes important developments of specific concern to AmCham countries or regional organizations.

4. The International Division regularly circulates important documents to all AmChams, providing them with an opportunity to express their views on U.S. Chamber policies before such policies are considered by the U.S. Chamber board of directors.

5. Where appropriate, AmChams perform an essential advisory role to bilateral business councils administered by the U.S. Chamber to address important issues affecting trade and investment with America’s key trading partners. In addition, AmChams are encouraged to participate in other U.S. Chamber activities.

6. The U.S. Chamber staff provides numerous facilities to AmChams to assist them in obtaining important information and keeping abreast of fast moving developments. Such services include the scheduling of key appointments with Congressional and Administrative representatives, and the arranging of briefings of AmCham visitors throughout the year.

The U.S. Chamber-AmCham relationship also entails a number of factors which assist the U.S. Chamber in the development and implementation of certain of its policies and programs abroad.

For example:

1. AmChams assist in publicizing, disseminating and promoting abroad the U.S. Chamber’s international and domestic policies and programs.

2. Through their close working relations with American embassies and foreign governments, AmChams further U.S. Chamber interests and enhance its credibility abroad.

3. AmChams are important conduits for the channeling of U.S. Chamber policy positions and programs that may be adopted by the host country national business organization(s).

4. AmChams assist in coordinating the views of American business abroad on a variety of policies, programs and topics under review by the U.S. Chamber.

5. AmChams assist the U.S. Chamber’s own legislative efforts by testimony and individual visits with members of Congress and their staffs on pending issues of mutual concern.

Communications and Information Exchange

To ensure that an effective relationship exists between the U.S. Chamber and AmChams, it is essential to establish effective communication channels. In addition to the standard forms of correspondence by phone, fax, and e-mail, a number of arrangements have developed over the years to exchange important documents and publications.

The International Division distributes packets to all AmCham executive directors containing complimentary copies of U.S. Chamber’s uschamber.com, and international publications of interest to AmCham members such as testimony, legislative status reports, special reports and analyses of pending legislation, and flyers on special programs or conferences.

In addition, annually, the U.S. Chamber sends to AmChams copies of the following:

  • Congressional Handbook
  • National Business Agenda

In return, AmChams provide the U.S. Chamber with a number of publications which serve to improve the awareness of AmCham concerns and programs within the International Division. The International Division has established formal agreements with most AmChams to market and distribute their publications in the U.S. market. Initially, most AmChams send to the U.S. Chamber samples of their journals, newsletters, monthly magazines, membership directories, reports from AmCham committees and working groups, reports and surveys covering the climate for American business in the host country, and analyses of important changes in host government policies or regulations affecting business. AmChams are encouraged to explore a collaborative publications marketing effort with the U.S. Chamber.

One of the most important information services provided by AmChams is in connection with trade inquiries received by the U.S. Chamber. During the course of any one year, the International Division receives hundreds of such inquiries, many of which are most appropriately referred to AmChams. In this context, AmChams are noteworthy vehicles in expanding U.S. trade and serve as a valuable reference for business information of all types.

Administrative Services and Coordination

In addition to the foregoing elements of the U.S. Chamber-AmCham relationship, there is a final category which relates to administrative services and coordination.

One of the most important functions performed by the U.S. Chamber’s International
Division is the promotion of better understanding of AmChams in the United States and their credibility and visibility worldwide. In addition to the publications promotion effort, this function takes the following forms:

1. The U.S. Chamber arranges for a number of activities in connection with its annual meeting designed to enhance the understanding of AmChams worldwide. Such activities have included special exhibits on AmChams, receptions, and special meetings with representatives of local chambers of commerce and trade associations.

2. The U.S. Chamber staff and officers devote considerable time to the development of AmChams worldwide.

3. The AmCham-U.S. Chamber link is mentioned in International Division publications, on its website, and in the course of U.S. Chamber activities as appropriate.

4. The International Division regularly briefs ambassadors and U.S. foreign service officers prior to posting in AmCham countries, on the AmCham-U.S. Chamber relationship and the importance of U.S. Embassy support for AmCham activities.

5. The International Division arranges for briefings for foreign visitors requested by AmChams and assists in the promotion of AmCham publications in the United States through its newsletters and other mailings.

By their very presence in the host country, AmChams contribute to the visibility and credibility of the U.S. Chamber. They carry out effective business-government cooperation programs and handle innumerable requests for information, business reference checks and appointments for U.S. Chamber visitors, all of which enhance the U.S. Chamber’s reputation worldwide.

Application Requirements

Application for membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is predicated on several conditions and must be accompanied by specific pieces of information as outlined below.

Conditions

1. American business executives based overseas and their foreign national counterparts having business connections with the United States, must agree to support, both financially and with active participation, the American Chamber of Commerce.

2. American Chambers of Commerce must not accept any financial aid from any government, or any other source that would tend to prevent AmChams from having the freedom of action that is necessary in the promotion of American interests in general.

3. American Chambers of Commerce agree to work in concert with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the mutual benefit of both organizations in promotion American business interests in the United States and in the host country. To this end, an open exchange of information between the parties must be agreed to, to ensure the organizations do not work at cross purposes.

Material Requirements

1. Completed Application Form.

2. Bylaws, covering the Principles Governing the AmChams mentioned earlier in this article, to be approved by the Chamber’s General Counsel.

3. The Membership Roster of founding members. Updated membership lists must be provided to the U.S. Chamber on an annual basis.

4. Initially, the proposed Work Program for the coming year. Thereafter, an annual Work Program setting out yearly priorities must be forwarded to the U.S. Chamber.

5. A Financial Statement providing details on initial capitalization and plans for continued funding.

6. A list of the Board of Directors and their corporations.

7. Membership dues. First year dues are payable in advance per the attached schedule.

8. An Annual Report, prepared at the conclusion of the first year, and regularly thereafter, to include an evaluation of the previous year’s workplan.

Conclusion

The foregoing reviews the combined characteristics of the U.S. Chamber-AmCham relationship from the perspective of the Chamber’s International Division and AmChams worldwide. Further questions on the relationship may be directed to the International Division directors responsible for the region of interest.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
1615 H Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20062-2000
www.uschamber.com