New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Planning Trade Mission to Cuba — Update

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce in his state-of-the- state address on Wednesday that he will lead a trade mission to Cuba in the coming months, according to a person familiar with his plans.

The trip by the second-term Democratic governor would be among the first by a high-profile U.S. politician since the Obama administration loosened travel and trade rules for the country.

Mr. Cuomo had planned a series of five trade missions for his second term. In the past week, as the Obama administration released rules stating a broad spectrum of travelers could visit Cuba without having to apply for a travel license to the country, the governor added Cuba as the first expected trip on his itinerary, this person said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Cuomo declined to comment.

It wasn’t clear whether Mr. Cuomo’s office had consulted with the White House or federal authorities on its plans.

President Barack Obama, declaring the U.S. isolation policy toward the Communist country a failure, last month sought to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba, announcing a plan to relax rules on business and travel, as well as a prisoner exchange under an agreement with Cuban President Raúl Castro.

Restrictions on trade between the U.S. and Cuba remain tight under the new rules, but they provide leeway for American telecommunications firms, financial institutions and agricultural operations to do some business on the island. They also permit commercial imports of certain U.S.-authorized Cuban small-business goods and services, as well as commercial sales of consumer communications devices.

Mr. Cuomo’s planned trip could lead to further criticism from some politicians and members of the Cuban community in Florida and elsewhere who argue the Obama administration’s new rules will enrich the Cuban government. “This is a windfall for the Castro regime that will be used to fund its repression against Cubans, as well as its activities against U.S. national interests in Latin America and beyond,” Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is Cuban- American, said this past week.

Mr. Cuomo rarely left New York state in his first term in office. His attitude toward travel, particularly foreign excursions, however, shifted dramatically in anticipation of his second term, which began at the start of this month.

Mr. Cuomo has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, or as an official in a future Democratic administration, but he has said his focus is on being governor of New York. He has attributed his new-found taste for international travel to his interest in helping revive struggling economies in upstate regions of New York, which he believes can be bolstered through import and export deals.

“I wanted to make it clear that I wasn’t interested in any other job,” he said last year, explaining when announcing his planned trade missions–which include visits to Israel, China, Italy, Canada and Mexico–why he rarely left his home state during his first term.

“Not that we have a cynical press corps, but if you have a New York governor who starts to travel over in other states, right away they look for other political motivations.”

Going forward, he said, foreign travel would be “essential to doing the job of governor.”

By Erica Orden,

January 17, 2015

Write to Erica Orden at


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