Portsmouth looking to trade with Bangladesh amid Brexit uncertainty
TRADE and education links between Portsmouth and a country 5,000 miles away could allow the city to be 'master of its own destiny' in a post-Brexit world.
Organisations in Portsmouth are gearing up to make formal ties with Bangladesh in Asia to share business and academic resources.
The city council, along with the newly formed Portsmouth Bangladesh Business Association (PBBA), the University of Portsmouth, the port and other groups, will visit the country to officially twin with Sylhet - where many of Portsmouth's 10,000-strong Bangladeshi community have roots.
Vice-chairwoman of the PBBA, Shipa Ahmed Khan, said: 'Businesses from both places will be able to not only trade and sell goods but will be able to learn from each other about how to boost and market their businesses as well as how to make certain products.
'The GDP in Bangladesh is one of the fastest growing in the world. Young middle class people there have more money now and want to spend it.'
The University of Portsmouth is hoping to attract students from Bangladesh to the city as well as begin an academic partnership, and already has a representative based in Sylhet.
Director of University of Portsmouth Global, Bobby Mehta, said: 'We are hoping by working with the city council and the local community we will be able to build relationships in Bangladesh to progress research we are doing.
'For example, at the moment we are doing a lot of research on plastic and other issues that are global and don't just affect Portsmouth. They might have resources and knowledge we don't have, and similarly it could work the other way around.'
For the council's deputy leader, Councillor Steve Pitt, it was an important opportunity with the outcome of Brexit still unclear. 'We have to be masters of our own destiny here,' he said.
'We can either sit back and let things happen to us or be proactive and reach out to other possibilities.
'We have got a really significant community here with really great people and we should make the most of that.'
The Bangladeshi community in Portsmouth is the city's largest non-British white group.
An active member of the community Faz Ahmed, whose parents were from Bangladesh, has already visited Sylhet as part of the process. 'Bangladesh is such a friendly country and I hope Portsmouth can be the same for any businesses and students coming here - that they feel like this is a home from home for them.
'There's such a large Bangladeshi community in Portsmouth and lots of people are now third or fourth generation so it's important that they remember where their families came from.'
The trade mission from Portsmouth to Bangladesh will take part on November 16 to 22.