A chamber of commerce (also referred to in some circles as a board of trade) is a form of business network, e.g., a local organization of businesses whose goal is to further the interests of businesses. Business owners in towns and cities form these local societies to advocate on behalf of the business community. Local businesses are members, and they elect a board of directors or executive council to set policy for the chamber. The board or council then hires a President, CEO or Executive Director, plus staffing appropriate to size, to run the organization.
The first chamber of commerce was founded in 1599 in Marseille, France. It would be followed 65 years later by another official chamber of commerce, probably in Brugge, then part of the Spanish Netherlands.
The world's oldest English-speaking chamber of commerce is that of New York City, which was established in 1768. The oldest known existing chamber in the English-speaking world with continuous records is the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, which was founded in 1783. However, Leeds Chamber of Commerce is the UK's oldest, followed by Belfast, Northern Ireland.
A chamber of commerce is not a governmental body or institution, and has no direct role in the writing and passage of laws and regulations that affect businesses. It may however, act as a lobby in an attempt to get laws passed that are favorable to businesses.