Portsmouth's post-Brexit trading prospects boosted as Bangladeshi minister cites 'beginning' of partnership

BUSINESS owners vying to launch ‘exciting’ trade deals with Bangladesh have been told by one of the country’s cabinet ministers how they could help the nation’s relationship with Britain ‘live long’.

Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 10:08 pm
Updated Friday, 13th September 2019, 10:30 am

The rallying message came as Bangladesh’s minister for aviation and tourism, Mahbub Ali, made a special appearance in Portsmouth.

Dozens of entrepreneurs packed into the Akash in Albert Road, Southsea, on Wednesday to meet Mr Ali and hear him speak.

His visit, teed up by curry house boss Faz Ahmed, comes just three months after the Portsmouth Bangladesh Business Association launched.

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Bangladesh aviation and tourism minister Mahbub Ali at the Akash Restaurant in Southsea. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The collective recently announced its lofty aspirations of forging a thriving two-way link between the two places after Brexit.

Mr Ali, who represents centre-left party the Bangladesh Awami League, said: ‘We will work together, we’ll deal with you, you support us, visit us, and the British friendship will live long.’

He added: ‘We're expecting that all of you will visit Bangladesh – let this be a beginning.’

As he spoke during his visit Mr Ali said Britain was Bangladesh’s ‘best friend’, but cited the ‘huge’ potential of the plans floated by the PBBA.

Bangladesh aviation and tourism minister Mahbub Ali and founder of the Akash, Syed 'George' Ahmed at the Akash Restaurant, Southsea. Picture: Habibur Rahman

These include twinning with the city of Sylhet – where many of Portsmouth's 10,000 Bangladeshi residents have roots – and developing an academic relationship that would see the University of Portsmouth take on more Bangladeshi students and exchange research resources.

Rowshanara Reza, assistant secretary of the BPPA, said the organisation’s prospects were becoming ‘more real’ as a result of the visit.

‘There are lots of things we can learn from Bangladesh and that’s something we need to be mindful of,’ she said.

‘We’re not just going there to invest and put our money in, we can learn a lot and bring a lot back.’

She added: ‘We’re really proud and passionate about Portsmouth, but we’re also proud about Bangladesh and we want to marry those two together.

‘That way, when my children grow up, they can know both and have a home from home.’

Mr Ali’s visit also granted him an audience with councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, who called it a ‘privilege’.

‘The potential future business links between the two countries and between Portsmouth and Bangladesh is really important, which is why it’s so good to welcome the minister here,’ he added.

On trading prospects after Britain’s impending withdrawal from the European Union, BPPA chairman Raja Alli said: ‘We don’t see these this as a challenge, we see it as an opportunity – and all it takes is people to make a leap of faith.

‘We have to look at why the minister’s coming all this way. He knows and I’m sure he appreciates the contribution the Bangladeshis are making in Portsmouth.’

As previously reported, a trade mission from Portsmouth to Bangladesh will take place from November 16 to 22.