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Business Associations and Chambers


    Advocates for business

    In the State of Bavaria, business chambers have traditionally been strong and take an active part in economic life. In Munich there are also strong chapters of Germany's most influential business associations. Chambers are offering qualified training and are in charge of examinations and degrees for many trained professions. You may also benefit from their events, lectures or information on a variety of business needs.

    IHK für München und Oberbayern  Link öffnet eine vergrößerte Darstellung des Bildes.
    © IHK für München und Oberbayern

    Chambers of Commerce and Industry

    The chambers of commerce and industry (Industrie- und Handelskammer, IHK) and the chambers of skilled crafts (Handwerkskammer, HwK) are self-administered public statutory bodies under the inspectorate of the German state. Membership of these chambers is compulsory for all companies pursuant to the 1956 Chambers Act (IHK-Gesetz), which explains why these chambers are much bigger than chambers under private law.

    More than 380,000 member companies are associated with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Munich and Upper Bavaria, Germany's largest chamber. Eighty regional chambers of commerce and industry have been set up throughout the country.

    Germany also has compulsory chambers for the liberal professions, which include architects, dentists, engineers, lawyers, notaries, physicians and pharmacists, for example. Skilled craft businesses are required to join the local chamber of skilled crafts.

    This model of compulsory membership is common in several European Union countries (France, Germany, Italy and Spain), but also in Japan. The main tasks of the chambers are to promote foreign trade and regional economic development, to oversee vocational training and to provide general services to their members. They have also been given the duties of public administration in certain areas by government appointment, and must be consulted whenever a new law related to industry or commerce is proposed.

    The Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag, DIHK) is the central organization overseeing these chambers. The DIHK thus represents more than three million entrepreneurs, from global corporations to retailers and restaurant owners of all sizes. This standing gives the association considerable political influence. It does not represent any specific corporate group, but rather defends the interests of all commercial enterprises in Germany.

    International chamber network: the AHKs

    The German chamber network is also represented abroad by what are known as the chambers of commerce in foreign countries (Auslandshandelskammer, AHK). Set up as the German economy and global business relationships developed over the past century, these chambers today have a presence at 125 offices in 85 countries around the globe. The AHKs have three main functions:

    • To officially represent German industry and commerce
    • To serve the interests of member organizations
    • To provide services to companies

    The AHKs are key partners in promoting Germany's business development abroad. More than 44,000 companies all over the world are associated with the AHK network. These companies – both German and local in origin - put a lot of effort into intensifying and improving the whole spectrum of foreign business relations. The AHKs support the market interests of German companies in each host country. At the same time, they provide services to local companies that engage in bilateral business. They are also increasingly active in promoting Germany as a business location (under the service brand “DEinternational”) for interested companies in host countries.

    Bundesverband Gross- und Aussenhandel (BGA)  Link öffnet eine vergrößerte Darstellung des Bildes.
    © BGA

    Industrial federations

    Industrial federations and other trading associations

    The most important German industrial federation is the Federation of German Industries (Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie, BDI). The BDI communicates the interests of German industry to political decision-makers. It serves as the umbrella organization for German industry and industry-related service providers. As such, it speaks on behalf of 37 sector associations and represents over 100,000 large, medium-sized and small enterprises with more than eight million employees.

    Germany's leading trade organization for the foreign trade sector in Germany is the Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services (Bundesverband Gross- und Aussenhandel, BGA). The BGA currently consists of 28 regional associations that are primarily responsible for wage policy. In addition, 51 branch associations cover the entire spectrum of wholesale and foreign trade. The BGA is itself a member of various economic associations at the German and European levels.


    The Association of the Automotive Industry (Verband der Automobilindustrie, VDA) represents one of the most important industrial sectors in Germany. It comprises about 620 member companies, representing both OEMs and automotive suppliers. The VDA organizes the world’s largest automobile exhibition, the International Motor Show (IAA). Go here for details.


    The German Engineering Federation (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau, VDMA) represents more than 3,100 member companies – mostly SMEs – in the engineering industry, making it one of the largest and most important industrial associations in Europe. Mechanical engineering is a key technology and a powerful driver of the economy, giving work to 986,000 people in Germany (2013). The VDMA covers the entire process chain – from component and plant manufacturers, system suppliers and systems integrators to service providers. Go here for details.

    vbw  Link öffnet eine vergrößerte Darstellung des Bildes.
    © vbw

    Private-sector business organizations

    Germany also boasts a multitude of private-sector business organizations, some of which specialize in fostering business relations with the different regions of the world: Africa (German-African Business Association, AV), Asia (German Asia-Pacific Business Association, OAV), Eastern and Central Europe (Eastern and Central Europe Association, OMV), the Near and Middle East (German Near and Middle East Association, NUMOV), and Latin America (Business Association for Latin America, LAV).

    The most important private business association in Bavaria is the Bavarian Industry Association (Vereinigung der Bayerischen Wirtschaft, vbw). The vbw represents more than 100 Bavarian economic and employers’ associations and over 30 individual companies from all sectors of the economy (manufacturing, skilled crafts, construction, transportation, retail and wholesale, banking and financial services, agriculture, hospitality, the catering industry, and independent contractors).

    International business communities

    Organizations, clubs and associations for foreign communities in Munich

    Published by the City of Munich's Department of Labor and Economic Development, this location information sheet (pdf, 486 KB) provides an overview of organizations, clubs and associations that engage in and facilitate dialogue between Munich/Bavaria and other countries and regions on a variety of levels.