The European Commission yesterday warned member states to resist any move towards protectionism in the face of an expected Asian exports surge. As Europe becomes increasingly concerned about the impact of the Asian crisis, top EU trade official Sir Leon Brittan called on European countries to provide experts to help Asian countries reform their financial systems. Sir Leon's comments came as officials yesterday said the Asian crisis would dominate Monday's meeting of the European Council of Finance Ministers (Ecofin), where International Monetary Fund managing director Michel Camdessus has been invited to attend for the first time. Sir Leon, addressing the Industry and Parliament Trust in London yesterday, said there was a growing danger governments would buckle under pressure from European industry to erect trade barriers to preserve jobs. Germany, the world's third-largest economy, is still reeling from new figures showing unemployment is at its highest since World War II, while in France unemployment is still above 12 per cent despite a recent fall. 'With the massive devaluation of several Asian currencies there is a risk of a surge in exports to Europe and, as a result, growing pressure to respond in a protectionist way,' Sir Leon said. 'That kind of response would be as damaging today as it was in the 1930s,' he said. 'To avoid it we must do everything to help the Asian countries get back on their feet,' but he also warned that Asia too must show that it was willing to reform. 'Our ability to keep on that liberalising track and to resist pressures against it will depend on the extent to which Europeans are reassured that the Asian countries really are embarking on the necessary reforms to their financial sector and will carry them through to the end,' Sir Leon said. The EC has projected EU countries will grow 3 per cent this year, but the IMF has warned that the Asian crisis could trim at least 0.3 per cent from that. Sir Leon said the appropriate reaction to fallout from Asia - which would be 'real, but perfectly manageable,' - would be to press for further trade liberalisation. 'That alone can provide a secure foundation for future prosperity,' he said. He called on Europe to support the IMF rescue packages for South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia and asked for countries to send finance professionals to help the reform process. 'Even those that have adequate rules often do not have a sufficiently numerous and experienced corps of banking and financial market supervisors to ensure that those rules are effectively applied,' Sir Leon said. He said Europe's own experience in this field was particularly strong, because of Britain's primacy in global financial services, and Europe's own attempts to create a single market in financial services.