By Andy Gibson

The UK is under pressure from the credit crunch: the financial services industry is in meltdown. These are today’s headlines, dominated by the current credit problems engendered by the American Sub-Prime mortgage lending crisis that has begun to resonate around the world.

There is a lighter side to the story however. Outside the financial and property sectors, the UK economy is more bullish. UK manufacturers have overcome a challenging economic environment thanks to recent restructuring efforts, according to the EEF and the sector remains confident about continuing to face those challenges according to the CBI.

The pound is now undervalued against other key currencies (Euro, Yen, Rand etc.) and this gives our exporters of goods and services a boost. In addition, an increasing focus on innovation and more sophisticated products has enabled us to continue to compete against low cost economies without a simple price fight.

So where on earth are our next customers coming from?

Increasingly the emerging economies are buying British quality and British know how. China, India and Russia are all growing markets, and the building boom in the Middle east shows no immediate sign of abating.

Dealing with these economies often takes UK (particularly SME) companies outside their comfort zone, so it is critical that we continue to support these companies in their endeavours. It is not enough to master your own field of product or service; you need to be on top of the game in finding and retaining international customers, satisfying their needs profitably, and getting paid.

In the UK, we have a wealth of experience and skill, which we need to tap for our SMEs. This is a challenge that requires all the regional efforts of UKTI, though the familiar passport and OMIS schemes, together with private entrepreneurial support groups like Fresh Business Thinking, the networking opportunities offered by the regional export clubs and international trade forums and the support, training and mentoring offered by the new Business Membership of the Institute of Export.