A summary of the activity of an international research team assembled by the NAFTA Forum on Engineering Practice to study and recommend guidelines for engineering conduct and ethics in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico under NAFTA, including the recommended principles of ethical conduct submitted in 1995.
Murdough Center for Engineering Professionalism, Texas Tech University
Jimmy H. Smith, Project Director and Principal Investigator Patricia A. Barrington, Project Coordinator and Manager
The NAFTA Forum on Engineering Practice has eighteen official representatives, six from each country. The representatives from the US are designated by the United States Council for International Engineering Practice (USCIEP); the representatives from Canada are designated by the Canadian Council for Professional Engineers and the representatives from Mexico are designated by several Mexico organizations: FECIC, CICM, CIEES, CONIQQ and CIME.
The provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) include requirements for addressing the practice of the professions across the borders of Canada, Mexico and the United States. These requirements include "conduct and ethics." Among the various issues being considered under the NAFTA, the issue of conduct and professional ethics is an essential element in implementing the NAFTA. In fact, the ethical aspects of international engineering practice may be the thread that holds the process together in future engineering endeavors. Thus, the objective of this project was to address the professional conduct and ethics aspect involved in the engineering relationships among the three countries.
Organize the research team and the advisors- Phase I of the work involved organizing a research team from the three nations. The team consisted of six (6) individuals, two from each of the three nations, designated by the respective nations, assisted by a group of seven (7) advisors. One of the team members from each country also served on the eighteen member NAFTA Forum on Engineering Practice.
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Determine the issues to be considered-
Phase II of the project involved determining the critical issues. At the first meeting the team determined what each nation
believed were issues that should be included in the study, and prepared an outline of a brief status report on the meeting. The following issues were considered important in the study: The diversity of cultures; The responsibility of engineers to clients, governments, and the public; The understanding and expectations of the public regarding engineering practice; The understanding and expectations of the governments regarding engineering practice; The definition and mutual understanding of "protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public"; The nature of a set of standards and criteria related to professional conduct and ethics; and the nature of disciplinary action for non-conformity with those standards.
Develop preliminary report to NAFTA Forum on Engineering Practice - A preliminary report was prepared and a request for suggestions was presented by the team at the NAFTA Forum on Engineering Practice.
Refine list of issues and conduct research on the issues identified The team continued its deliberations on ethics and enforcement issues. A list of vital elements in the codes of ethics from all three nations was refined so the team could focus their attention on the elements in common. Several codes from each nation were studied. The list below shows the types of issues considered and compared among the ethics codes from each nation.
At the conclusion of the Mexico City meeting, the first draft of a set of Principles of Ethical Conduct in Engineering Practice under the NAFTA was developed.
Develop recommendations for consideration by the three nations- During this phase of the project, the draft recommendations were refined based on oral and written comments from the Forum members and others in attendance. The following final conclusions and recommendations were included among other matters related to engineering practice in Canada, Mexico, and USA and were presented to the US Free Trade Commission by the NAFTA Forum on Engineering Practice in June 1995 in Washington DC. The Mutual Recognition Document was signed and presented to the US Trade Commissioner, Mickey Kantor.
Principals of ethical conduct in engineering practice under the North American Free Trade Agreement- The privilege of practicing engineering is entrusted to those qualified and who have the responsibility for applying engineering skills, scientific knowledge and ingenuity for the advancement of human welfare and quality of life. Fundamental principles of conduct of engineers include truth, honesty and trustworthiness in their service to society, and honorable and ethical practice showing fairness, courtesy and good faith toward clients, colleagues and others. Engineers take societal, cultural, economic, environmental and safety aspects into consideration, and strive for the efficient use of the world's resources to meet long term human needs.
In the practice of engineering:
The results of this project are also at http://www.coe.ttu.edu/ethics/nafta.htm