00:53 GMT27 September 2020
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    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will on Monday lead a state trade mission to Cuba – the first of its kind since US President Barack Obama announced his plan to normalize relations with the Caribbean country in December 2014.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The governor will be joined by representatives of numerous firms, including MasterCard vice chair Walt Macnee and head of New York-based air carrier JetBlue Robin Hayes.

    "The representatives in New York's delegation will help ensure Empire State companies are at the front of the line as the door opens to a market that has been closed to U.S. enterprise for over half a century."

    US President Barack Obama, right, smiles as he looks over towards Cuban President Raul Castro, left, during their meeting at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City
    © AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais
    The industry leaders will serve as ambassadors for the state and help create the basis for a "strong economic relationship between New York and Cuba as legal restrictions on trade are eased in the future," according to the governor.

    Cuomo, a Democrat, will also be joined by several New York officials, including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

    The historic mission has drawn criticism from the Republicans, with chair of the New York Republican State Committee Ed Cox deeming it "hypocritical" in light of the governor's recent Indiana travel ban.

    Cuomo briefly banned all non-essential state-funded travel to Indiana in late March amid its introduction of a so-called religious freedom restoration act, which critics claim targeted the LGBT community.

    The New York governor is expected to remain in Cuba for just under two days before heading back to the United States.

    Despite Washington's announcement on restoring relations with Cuba, US authorities are yet to lift the trade embargo against the island country, imposed following the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

    US Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier in April that the process of restoring ties would begin slowly, starting with the restoration of diplomatic relations.


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