His Excellency Dr. Neil Parsan

Interview with the Ambassador of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

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Written by Annie Anderson, Contributor

His Excellency Dr. Neil Parsan and Mrs. Lucia Parsan

DC: What attracted you to the role of Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago to the United States?

Ambassador: Before becoming the Ambassador and my position as CEO of a company, I was a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Faculty of Medical Sciences. Aside from lecturing, I was heavily involved in the administration of one of the medical schools. Being part of that administration, I assumed responsibility of coming to the United States many times and actively engaging with the California education system and recruiting medical students from California universities for faculty back at home.

That experience was an introduction to the role of ambassadorship in a different form, one that I really enjoyed. But before I could convince medical students to join the faculty, I had to convince them to come to my country. Therefore, I had to be very articulate and factual in respect to what and how I sold it to students and faculty. That experience has helped me become a “salesman” for my country; if you have to sell a business in a country, you have to sell the country.

Subsequently, he became a CEO. When asked by the Prime Minister if he considered becoming an Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Parsan’s immediate response was: I am here to serve. Whatever role the Prime Minister thought was best suited for me, I would accept. It just so happened to be that I was appointed to be the Ambassador in what I consider the world’s capitol, where most of the Embassies are: Washington, DC. I am very lucky and grateful to be in Washington to full-heartedly share my country, in terms of the experience and opportunities that are deemed strategically fit for business development Trinidad and Tobago.

DC: What is a typical day in the life of an Ambassador?

Ambassador: Very busy. I think I have two jobs: a 9am-5pm and 5pm-9pm. The day starts with a series of meetings, I am keen on business, and I do a lot of meetings in regards with the Organization of American States (OAS). I am very busy because I am the Ambassador to the United States and to Mexico. At the meetings I discuss many pressing issues related to democracy, and I spend a lot of time focusing on business, academia, and sharing my perspective. I try to invest the majority of my time in the operational issues of the embassy: functioning, foreign residents in the U.S., visas, passports, and helping people in trouble. I spend at least one hour to go through email, I get anywhere from 400 to 600 emails a day. Everyday it’s somebody’s Independence Day, King’s Day, National Day… so I have a lot of social events to attend.

A typical week, though, for me has been four or five days in DC, then two to three days outside of DC. I recently visited 12 cities – and I spend time to visit different cities. I try to achieve three or four things: meet government officials – governors, mayors, senators, and commissioners – and let them know I am here. Before each trip I make a point to ensure a proper meeting is organized. I try to meet anywhere from 100 to 150 businessmen and women each trip. At the meetings I basically explain our history of economics, and opportunities that exist in the sector in regards to both my home country and to the US. Lastly, I try to have two sets of meetings – Caribbean Nationals and a meeting with Trinidad and Tobago Nationals – because it does not make sense to go to a different city and not include the Caribbean. They are both very supportive of each other.

DC: How has being an Ambassador affected your life, including your family?

Ambassador: It is not the first time, being in the private sector I have worked very long hours. As a CEO I performed many long hours carrying out my duties. What has really changed is that it is no longer about the bottom-line but more about the level of productivity. I am now looking after the nation’s interests.

In terms of family life, the ambience has changed in our surroundings, living in a different country, and the level of our interaction with family back home has changed. And we are building a network of friends. I also try to go out of the gambit of diplomacy between businessmen, people in sports, and neighbors to broadening our horizontal scope.

DC: What diplomatic challenges and opportunities have you come across as being the Ambassador of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago?

Ambassador: We have had a very long, very cordial relationship with U.S. since 1962, and Trinidad and Tobago has a strategic interest in the U.S. because we supply 53% of the energy requirement for natural gas. I am actively engaged in the department of government to ensure the robustness and strength of our relationship continues over time. Multinationally, being the representative of the Organization of American States, I am obligated to engage 34 other countries, all of Latin America, Central America, and all over Caribbean.

I have not had, thus far, anything I would term as a diplomatic challenge. I am actively looking for business opportunities for other countries outside of the U.S. ambassadors and engaging other ambassadors bilaterally to improve things both ways.

DC: So you have now assumed the position as Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago to the United States of America and Mexico for the past 6 months. What have been some of the most significant milestones and what do you plan for the remainder of your ambassadorship?

Ambassador: On February 25th, I presented my credentials to his Excellency the President.

I just recently mapped a way forward to aspire. I believe we have well over half a million people from Trinidad and Tobago living in the US.  I feel they are an untapped resource to leverage prosperity and show the way the countries support each other, both at home in the Caribbean and in the United States.

In terms of a milestone, I would like to measure in percentage and points is the number of direct investment I have brought to my home country and the number of trade opportunities coming out of my country to the US.  It is a two-way traffic.

Another milestone is to bring together a cohesive project focused in terms of contributions and bring together a structure to examine what are the needs back home and what are the needs here to contribute to Trinidad and Tobago’s development. I am also looking forward to ensuring that coming out of this, that Trinidad and Tobago is able to position itself as leaders in the region. We are natural leaders, and I would like that fact to be realized and concretized here, which speaks volumes about its ability to contribute to the Caribbean; and that must start here in Washington as well as back home.

His Excellency Dr. Neil Parsan, and his wife, Mrs. Lucia ParsanDC: What role do you take on as being the wife to the Ambassador?

Mrs. Lucia Parsan: So far my role has more supportive; attending functions and various activities, even packing clothes. I would like to get more involved with activities in addition to looking after the public court, department, and affiliations. I also want to eventually want to gain more in different activities but right now is my role is being very supportive.

DC: What aspects of being the wife to the Ambassador do you enjoy?

Mrs. Lucia Parsan: I enjoy being exposed to different cultures, travel, meeting new people from all walks of life and different countries, and being actively involved as well as supporting and shaping my country of Trinidad and Tobago.

DC: What are some interests, hobbies, or things you like to do outside of being in the diplomatic spotlight?

Mrs. Lucia Parsan: I enjoys taking my daughter, Amaya (4) outside to go cycling, outdoor activities, and sightseeing. I likes traveling and trying new restaurants.

Ambassador: Even before we came to the United States, my wife and I had a tradition where every Saturday we would try to go to a different restaurant. Every Sunday we would go to a movie at 5:00pm. We have restarted our tradition. Saturday is always dinner night, a new restaurant we have not been to, and Sunday is always movie night. You will be surprised, you can learn a lot about each other while experiencing a new restaurant. We both like the Buddha Bar, and that would be one of our favorites here in DC.

I am a runner. I like to run but haven’t been diligent because of the heat. Back home I run 15 miles per week. I also do cycling. I like soccer; I am a soccer fan. I have become very fond of and keen to ice hockey. I am trying to pick up more American sports and am determined to better understand American Football to become a fan.

For More Information:

Anyone interested in exploring Trinidad and Tobago is invited to call the Embassy and visit the Embassy’s website www.ttembassy.com. It is a sophisticated society, even though it is a small island, with with 1.3 million people on 2,000 sq. miles. It is worth investing time in what the country has to offer and encourages people to become more involved in the Caribbean.

Mrs. Parsan concludes that Trinidad is more industrial whereas Tobago is the perfect tourist island. She says “A lot of people think of Barbados, Jamaica, Cuba, islands that they are more familiar, but when you come to Trinidad, you will be pleasantly surprised.”