On June 17, 2013, Canada’s Consul General for New York John F. Prato welcomed YPFP members into his home for an exclusive Global Diplomacy Series event titled, “Moving Forward: Canada’s Changing Role in Foreign Policy.” Mr. Prato is the head of the Canadian Consulate General here in New York, representing Canada’s interests in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. At that event in June 2013, his remarks—and the subsequent discussion with YPFP members—were so engaging and thought-provoking that YPFP NY recently sat down with Mr. Prato to hear more about his own career path, his work as Canadian Consul General and his advice to members of YPFP.
Mr. Prato assumed the role of Canada’s Consul General in New York in March 2011, transitioning from a long career in the private sector as an investment banker. He describes the work of the Consulate General as being primarily composed of three arenas: consular work (such as providing assistance for Canadians); immigration business; and advocacy. “We are the key consulate in the United States for people who want to walk in and get a temporary work visa,” Mr. Prato said.
In New York City, advocating for Canada’s interests means keeping Ottawa closely appraised of developments in the financial world; encouraging interest and investment in Canada; and promoting Canadian innovations. In one such program, the Consulate General of Canada in New York brings start-ups to the city to introduce them to potential clients and investors. In addition, there is another main arena in which the Consulate General is consistently active: energy and the environment. “Energy is taking up a large part of time in advocacy,” Mr. Prato said. “That has to do with something that obviously we believe is in the best interest of the United States and Canada, the Keystone [XL] Pipeline.”
Though Mr. Prato advised Canadian government officials on financial issues on an ad-hoc basis prior to joining the diplomatic ranks, receiving the call to serve as Canada’s Consul General in New York was a surprise. Accepting, “was the greatest decision I’ve made from a career perspective,” Mr. Prato said. “To represent one’s country is an honor. This is also the best fit for me to do it, in New York. New York is a global city, it’s also my favorite city.”
Tell me more about your background and becoming Canada’s Consul General in New York.
“I bring something a little bit different to the table. While I’m not a professional foreign service officer, I spent almost twenty years in investment banking, principally equity capital markets and private equity. What I do bring is a knowledge of markets, particularly the impact of regulation on financial markets.
How do you apply your career as an investment banker to your current position?
“I try to leverage my skills from my previous life into the work I do in advocacy, primarily in investments and working on the energy angle, because the energy angle is all about investing…My old life also taught me how to manage in challenging environments.”
Have you always been interested in foreign relations and international affairs?
“I always had an interest in international affairs, economics and politics. I think increasingly in an interconnected world, you can’t just be a business major. What happens in one part of the world has an impact in your country. I also believe that the prosperity that we have today is the result of decisions made by international affairs experts. The success of the post World War II world and the institutions that came with it—GATT, WTO, UN—depends on it. These are all the results of foreign service workers.
What business needs is predictability, stability and certainty. That can only come from people engaging in dialogue. People that participate in [YPFP] really benefit, because you’ve got a diplomatic community, a business community. You need people who are global in their thinking.”
What would you like to share with YPFP members?
“I thought I could give you some insight into what it is like to be a diplomat today. What it means to be a diplomat has changed over time. I thought I could also give you some insights into what it is like to come from the business community. I always thought I wished I had the opportunity to learn about this earlier on.”
Will I see you at another YPFP in the future?
Eve Ahearn is associate director of communications for YPFP NY.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of their employer or Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.