(Updates with confirmation from Cuomo’s office)
Jan 17 (Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will lead one of the first trade missions to Cuba from the United States since the Obama administration loosened travel and trade restrictions on the Communist-ruled Caribbean island, his office confirmed on Saturday.
The Democratic governor will be promoting an initiative which seeks to attract foreign investment to New York state, said spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa.
“As part of the Global NY initiative, Governor Cuomo plans to lead a trade mission to Cuba. This is one of several such trips promoting New York that he plans to take in the coming term,” she said.
Cuomo will be among the first high-profile U.S. politicians to visit Cuba since last month’s policy shift. Details of the trip will be released “at the appropriate time,” his office said.
The announcement came as Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy set off on the first congressional mission to Cuba following Obama’s announcement on Dec. 17 that Washington would start normalizing ties with its old Cold War foe.
Leahy is heading a group of four Democratic senators and two Democratic representatives, all of whom have visited Cuba in the past and who strongly support Obama’s policy, a statement from his office said. Their three-day trip aims to get an idea from Cuban government officials of how they see the normalization process and convey a sense of what Americans expect.
Separately, the United States and Cuba are holding high-level talks in Havana next week on normalizing ties.
A package of new rules came into effect on Friday implementing Obama’s policy shift by opening up the island to expanded U.S. travel, trade and financial activities.
The U.S. embargo on Cuba, in place for 54 years, remains in place, however, as only the U.S. Congress can lift it.
While Cuban President Raul Castro has welcomed last month’s deal, he has made clear that Havana does not intend to abandon single-party rule or state control of the economy. Congressional critics of Obama’s shift say Washington should not be rewarding Cuba.
Cuomo’s upcoming trip to Cuba was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. (Reporting by Sandra Maler and Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Frances Kerry and James Dalgleish)