The second international trade mission for Gov. Ron DeSantis is raising questions about what the trip means for Floridians and who is paying for the four-nation tour.
The governor has already visited Japan, South Korea, and Israel. The United Kingdom will be the final stop on the mission, for the governor and his family.
Gov. DeSantis’s press office tells News4JAX the goal of this trade mission is to strengthen economic relationships for the state of Florida. They say the trip is not being funded by taxpayers’ money, but in a previous trade mission News4JAX found taxpayers did end up footing part of the bill.
And – News4JAX political analyst Rick Mullaney said – this trip may also be part of Gov. DeSantis’ presidential ambitions.
From Israel to Japan to South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Gov. DeSantis and his family are traveling nation to nation with the goal of drumming up business for the state of Florida. Meeting with key business executives including leaders from Hyundai and Kia, and exploring potential relationships between Florida and South Korea, and Japan.
″We’re just fortunate to be here and talk with business leaders who see the world similar to how we see it in Florida,” DeSantis said.
News4JAX has learned the trade mission is being funded by Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership that promotes economic development and international trade.
The last time DeSantis traveled out of the country to Israel for six days, it was funded by Enterprise Florida.
Public records reveal that trip cost $442,504 – with private donors covering more than two-thirds of the bill.
But, taxpayers ended up paying $131,000 to cover lodging, airfare, and other travel costs members of the state’s cabinet, as well as some staffers and security provided by FDLE.
″Over the last six months, we have certainly seen that Governor DeSantis has been laying the groundwork for running for president,” News4JAX political analyst Rick Mullaney said.
Mullaney said the timing of the international trade mission may also be playing into DeSantis’ potential presidential run. Mullaney says the images of DeSantis meeting with international leaders may send a message to his supporters.
″His visit with international leaders, which elevates potentially, both his stature and his credibility, trying to bring jobs back to Florida but also elevating his stature for potential run for the presidency,” Mullaney said.
The governor is traveling with his wife, Casey, and their children, as well as Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd and Florida Secretary of Commerce Laura DiBella.