Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair is to pledge European support for Asia during its time of crisis, and not be a 'fair weather' friend while financial turbulence continues to rip through the region. In a speech to be delivered tomorrow at the second Asia-Europe Meeting in London, Mr Blair - president of the European Union - is to assure the region that Europe is committed to working with Asia, and implement measures to see a return of market confidence. Mr Blair's speech will stress the primacy of the International Monetary Fund in any rescue measures that are implemented, and that Europe is keen to see a return of growth to some of the region's worst-hit countries. 'Asia's problems are Europe's problems . . . and we are committed to seeing full confidence return,' said Alistair Campbell, Mr Blair's chief spokesman. The Asem Trust Fund, to be unveiled at the meetings as a joint EU-World Bank initiative, already stands at more than US$25 million. More importantly, machinery is in place at the World Bank to provide advice on how to ease the crisis and enable countries to fairly assess its impact on poverty. Asem is also likely to approve a mainly European network of technical assistance that cash-strapped Asian countries can call on to help rebuild financial and banking systems. Europe believes measures to ensure the flow of trade between Asia and Europe are of vital importance to rebuild jobs and guard against protectionism. Some European countries have expressed concern that the region's depreciated currencies will result in a flood of exports to higher-priced domestic European markets, and may force further job losses. There is also concern that badly hit Asian countries may seek to protect their markets in a bid to restore employment. The move to reiterate European support came after it emerged yesterday that China was poised to grant British insurance group Royal Sun & Alliance, a licence to operate on the mainland. Previously Britain had been left out as other European companies gained Beijing's approval to operate in the mainland. Premier Zhu Rongji last year promised the next insurance licence would go to a British company. Efforts to boost the awarding of a licence were stepped up earlier this year when Margaret Beckett, president of Britain's Board of Trade, visited Beijing and Shanghai - accompanied by Royal Sun & Alliance. Yesterday, British pharmaceuticals group Zeneca said it had received final approval from the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation for an $85 million investment in Nantong.