The Italian General Confederation of Commerce (Confcommercio) originated in Rome on April 29, 1945. At its inception, it was conceived as an entity for connecting the various existing associations of merchants. It was composed of the new free (in the context of post-WWII and post-fascist Italy) Associations of Merchants: 24 provincial (7 Sicilian, 11 southern, and 6 central) and 14 national trade associations, for a total of 38.
Today it is the largest association representing businesses in Italy, with over 700,000 associates, and is perhaps the strongest commerce lobby in Europe. It is certainly the first in Italy, where its competition for registered members includes Confesercenti.
Confcommercio’s system of representation is structured both at the local level, with provincial organizations and regional unions, and at the categorical level, with national trade organizations. At all local levels of the confederational system, the Young Entrepreneurs Group and the Womens’ Tertiary (service sector) Group are established. The first is composed of associates under 40, the second of associated female entrepreneurs. The Confederation, through the agencies statutorily provided for, expresses the general guidelines of the politics of representation and, through the national structure, identifies the actions to be taken, coordinates the instruments of actualization, and defines a strategy for development of the represented sectors.
Confcommercio is currently headed by Carlo Sangalli, and is involved in advocating the demands made by commerce, tourism, service, and transport companies, affirming the role of the service sector as the real driving force behind the Italian economy: from the necessity of implementing stronger measures of tax reduction on labor, to the cutting of public expenditure. Confcommercio is also influential because of its electoral weight and its ability to launch campaigns like “Tax Day,” an initiative launched to ask for an easing of fiscal pressure, “Crime Day,” a day dedicated to the security of citizens, or the “Cards on the Table” campaign, organized several years ago in order to respond to the accusations directed at merchants regarding high prices following the introduction of the euro.
Sangalli’s presidency has reinforced the action taken to give a stronger voice to the small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurship in general, which so profoundly characterize the processes of local development, with participation in Rete Imprese Italia (the inter-confederational association, founded together with other associations of small businesses, like CNA, Confartigianato, and Confesercenti), which acts as an entity for coordination and confrontation with institutions, politics, and other economic and social forces.