The DTI had its beginnings on 23 June 1898 when President Emilio Aguinaldo formed four government agencies, namely the Departments of Navy, Commerce, Agriculture, and Manufacturing.

On 06 September 1901, the Philippine Commission established the Department of Commerce (and Police). After World War II, President Manuel A. Roxas issued EO 94 on 04 October 1947, creating the Department of Commerce and Industry (DCI). Cornelio Balmaceda, a much sought-after Economics Professor and Bureau of Commerce (BOC) Director, was appointed Acting Secretary of the newly created Department of Commerce and Industry.

Prior to EO 94, the Bureau of Commerce was tasked to develop and promote the trade and industry of the country under the overall supervision of the Department of Agriculture and Commerce (Act 4007 on 05 December 1932 by the Philippine Legislature).

After 25 years, by 1972, DCI had grown into a big organization with 10 regular bureaus and 22 agencies under its direct supervision. The DCI was mandated to promote, develop, expand, regulate, and control of foreign and domestic trade, industry, and tourism.

To have closer supervision and ensure more effective delivery of services, President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential Decree (PD) 189 on 11 May 1973, creating the Department of Tourism to handle all tourism-related matters. 

A year later, 21 June 1974, Marcos issued PD 488 creating the Department of Industry whose principal function was to promote and enhance the growth of the existing and thriving industries in the country.

On 02 June 1975, the Department of Trade was created under PD 721 to pursue efforts of the government toward strengthening socio-economic development of the country, particularly in the area of commercial activities. A key strategy of the new department was vigorous export promotion to generate much needed foreign exchange (forex). A Bureau of Foreign Trade was also established to push for domestic trade and marketing programs.

In the early 80s, the national economic development goal of the Marcos government required the need to hew industrial promotion efforts with the expansion of Philippine trade overseas. This resulted in the creation on 27 July 1981 of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, which took over the functions of the subsequently abolished Departments of Trade and of Industry.

Drastic changes followed after the People Power Revolution. President Corazon Aquino signed on 27 February 1987 EO 133, reorganizing the Ministry of Trade and Industry and renaming it the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

In 2006, Secretary Peter B. Favila issued a Department Order officially declaring every 27 July of each year, the date and month the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Industry was first merged, as the DTI anniversary.