Counselors and employee relations specialists teach that communication is the key ingredient for success and growth in all types of relationships. It's time for nations and automakers to embrace this concept on a global basis.

For years nations have progressed toward a global economy. It has created frustration as automakers struggle to meet standards and regulations that vary from country to country, resulting in wasted effort, materials and money. In addition, the growth in automobile use has brought both environmental and traffic congestion problems of varying degrees in ever country.

In many instances, countries developing at a slower pace have repeated mistakes other countries made a decade or more ago.

Much of this can be eliminated or reduced though a concentrated global communication effort between governmental bodies, environmental organizations, standards organizations and the people who ultimately create the solutions to the problems - the automotive engineers.

You may recall a meeting that encompassed all environmental issues, commonly called the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1991. This meeting involved governmental and environmental organizations, but where was the voice of engineers - the ones who would be charged with creating the solutions? They had not been invited, and therefore could not offer input.

Hopefully, it was not a deliberate snub of the automotive technical community. If the automobile is part of the world's environmental problem - and it is - shouldn't those who design and build automobiles be part of the solution?

The world can't afford to make this mistake again. Issues such as pollution, recycling, traffic congestion, fuel economy, emissions, manufacturing byproducts and vehicle disposal are threatening our ecosystem.

Almost 50 years ago, automotive engineers recognized the value of communicating and sharing technology with engineers from other countries and developed FISITA, a French acronym for the International Federation of Automotive Engineering Societies.

Since its modest beginning among a few European countries in 1948, FISITA now spans the globe and includes 28 member societies representing more than 130,000 automotive engineers.

FISITA's biennial congresses bring together top automotive engineers to discuss technological advances, new processes, current issues and possible solutions to both old and new problems. FISITA's most recent congress in Beijing gave engineers the opportunity to tour local plants and share methods for improving production and reducing cost, which the Beijing engineers would have had to learn by trial and error over a longer period of time.

While much has been gained through FISITA's efforts, progress has been hampered by differing regulations, standards and trade laws between nations, and a lack of unified international government support.

Primarily a communication vehicle between engineers in the past, FISITA recently has broadened its scope to bring together all the elements that affect and are affected by global automotive issues.

World governmental bodies, environmental organizations, standards organizations and automakers will be invited to FISITA's global congresses to join with engineers in order to define global automotive issues, discuss the viability of various options and, ultimately, provide engineers with universal guidelines so they can develop solutions.

A thorough understanding of the issues, challenges and limitations by governmental, environmental and standards organizations and automotive engineers will generate:

* Greater understanding and cooperation between these bodies on an international basis;

* Necessary changes to reduce international differences and aid progress; and

* Increased international research and development.

There are no easy solutions. However, with all constituents working together and communicating, we can progress more quickly and efficiently toward resolving these critical global issues and thereby provide greater harmony between the automobile and the environment.