Welcome to CITHA

European Confederation of International Trading Houses Associations

In 1956 a small group of International Trading Houses (ITH) in Scandinavia took the initiative of gathering once a year in order to exchange information on the issues of their activities abroad and decide on steps to be taken jointly when unfair measures or decrees by foreign Governments were causing them prejudice. This group was then called the Stockholm Club, which was soon joined by German and Dutch establishments specializing in international and overseas trade.


In 1971 during the annual meeting in Milan (the club had grown to 10 members) the founding of a formal body was decided with own statutes and an adequate denomination. There CITHA - the Confederation of International Trading Houses Associations - was born as an umbrella organization of the various national associations being its members.


Today CITHA has 12 members viz. Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom. In 2005 CITHA slightly changed its name into European Confederation of International Trading Houses Associations and became an NGO registered in Brussels by decree of the Ministry of Justice and as such is recognized by important international institutions like the World Bank, IMF, UNCTAD, OECD, WTO, EU Commission, etc.


The functions of CITHA are:

  • To keep the urgency of the challenge of free trade development before its member associations;
  • To serve as a coordinating body for companies and individuals engaged in international trade through their national associations;
  • To conduct studies and exchange information on emerging problems in third countries short of convertible currency (counter trade);
  • To support actions and resolutions passed by member associations with respect to regulations affecting exporters' and importers' activities and hampering free trade;
  • To defend international traders' interests worldwide and present their position to national and foreign authorities as well as international bodies and institutions.

On the other hand the functions of the ITHs especially for the benefit of SMEs can be summarized as follows:

  • Marketing: Making the product of the manufacturer marketable heeding the idiosyncrasies of the country you are selling to i.e. packing, labelling, etc. (especially overseas)
  • Logistics: The paper work both export- and import-wise is substantial. In developing countries the red tape can be quite complex. Obtaining all necessary permits and licences are intricate formalities, so is the matter of pre-shipment inspection.
  • Transport: Handling inbound and outbound shipping is a science on its own. FOB/CIF calculations vary from port to port. For short hauls the choice of allotment to rail, road and inland waterways is equally important.
  • Finance: Both in import and export business from and to overseas countries financial engineering matters a great deal. SMEs generally do not have the means to finance the process of manufacturing and/or distribution that stretches over several months.
  • Human Resources: A few years ago a book written by McCormack with the title "What you have not been taught at Harvard Business School" makes the point: not only is it important to speak the language of the client but still better to comprehend his mentality thus being able to blend into the regional customs and requirements.

This will show that the small or medium size manufacturer or industrialist who has to concentrate on the production of his goods cannot afford the time consuming formalities connected with overseas trade and its financial implications. The ITHs are there to provide for efficient assistance.


Of course, the important question is how to select the appropriate trading house because there are many kinds of ITHs. The important ones fall into two categories: they either specialise geographically or product wise.


The first category has century old settlements in various regions of the Globe (South America, Far East, South East Asia, etc.) and thus has a thorough knowledge of these markets. The ITH product specialist ranks in the second category and has skilled staff in each field of its activity viz. machinery, capital and consumer goods, IT hard and software, etc.


Naturally it will be a matter of discussion between the candidate trader and his counterpart (SME) whether the match making is acceptable and has reasonable chances of success. One remark: even large industrial producers having their own trading arm will use the services of the ITH for difficult markets overseas because the commission they will pay compares more favourably than setting up an in-house outfit to do the job.


What is the share of ITHs in world trade? According to statistics commerce accounts for about 20 % of the total figure of exports/imports + commercial services worldwide. For the sake of accurate information this is the break down of the annual figure at the beginning of 2004:


Exports/Imports of merchandise (bln US$)

Agricultural products: 674

Mining products: 960

Manufactured goods: 5437

Subtotal: 7071


Commercial services (bln US$)

Transportation: 405

Travel: 525

Others: 865

Subtotal: 1795


This means a grand total of US$ 9866 billion which leads us to foresee that in 2005 we shall pass the threshold of 10 trillion US$.


According to previews commercial services will still grow in the foreseeable future whilst expectations are that exports/imports of merchandise will slightly slow down in the current year. Thus one may reasonably assume that the volume of trade handled by the ITHs will be in the neighbourhood of 1000 billion US$ which is good news for the members of CITHA.

Confederation of International Trading Houses Associations (CITHA)



Avenue des Nerviens 85, 3rd floor, B-1040


Please contact CITHA in Germany via

Confederation of International Trading
Houses Associations (CITHA)

c/o BDEx

Am Weidendamm 1A

10117 Berlin, Germany


Phone:  +49 30 72 62 57 93

Fax:      +49 30 72 62 57 94

E-Mail:   info@citha.eu