United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

United States Cuba Relations: Cuomo Connects New York with Cuba

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) just returned from a whirlwind 26 hour trade mission to Cuba. While he was in a position where he could not satisfy either his critics or supporters over the length of his brief trip, he still achieved his goal of making a difference.  The State of New York is now on the Cuba market map and it intends to play a major role in supporting the normalization process as long as he is Governor.  That is significant.  Cuomo spoke eloquently as to the purpose and value of trade missions by what they can offer to both nations.  He outlined the progressive way to address human rights issues, not through sanctions but through a dialogue.   “How do you foster the human rights dialogue that everybody says must progress? It’s not through isolation, it’s through engagement.”  Gov. Cuomo highlighted the trade opportunity and the importance of ending the embargo and travel restrictions: “Engagement and full relationships are the best way to have a dialogue on the issues that we agree with and on the issues that we disagree about,” “I have no doubt that Cuba is going to be an exciting market to be in for business,” he said. “The question is how quickly it opens and how quickly it develops.” Gov Cuomo also counted on the support of moderate Cuban American groups like CAFE, Cuban Americans for Engagement, which in March, publicly endorsed the Governor's trip and efforts. CAFE's endorsement also countered criticisms from some sectors and individuals in New York who claimed to speak for the entire Cuban American community.  

Now the key will be the followup to make this opening expand.  Will companies make the time and investment necessary to stake a position and establish relationships in Cuba when the embargo finally lifts?  Will the State of New York open its ports in Brooklyn and Staten Island and promote shipping of authorized exports to Cuba?  No doubt that Governor Cuomo has serious work ahead and likely will be sending many other New Yorkers to Cuba to strengthen our business and cultural ties with the island nation. All in all a good first step.