Premier Zhu Rongji is set to take centre stage at today's opening session of the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) as the man whose economic policies have successfully withstood Asia's financial crisis - and whose future policies may hold the key to the region's recovery. As leaders from 10 Asian nations and their 15 European Union counterparts meet in London, Mr Zhu has been praised for China's policy of maintaining the value of the yuan, but will be urged to ensure the country remains single-mindedly on the path of economic reform. Two days of bilateral meetings with Britain and the European Union before the start of Asem are likely to pose some tough questions for Mr Zhu, particularly on Britain's big trade gap with China, and the mainland's slow progress to enter the World Trade Organisation. In discussions today, British Prime Minister Tony Blair will be keen to find a way to rebalance his country's huge deficit with China. Last year, its visible exports were only GBP920 million (about HK$11.93 billion), against Chinese imports of GBP2.5 billion. To open further its markets to British exports, China will be urged in talks - that will include European Commission president Jacques Santer and vice-president Sir Leon Brittan - to quicken the pace of its WTO entry. 'How quickly this will be resolved is rather difficult to say,' a British official said. 'It depends on the political will of the Chinese side - as well as the Europeans.' He said there was urgent need for China to cut its tariffs on goods, and liberalise further its services sector. Chinese officials yesterday said there was no question of wavering from its decision to introduce more free-market structures to the mainland, and that Mr Zhu was keen to learn from Europe's own experience of economic reform as it headed towards European Economic and Monetary Union. Late yesterday, in a meeting with Bank of England governor Eddie George, Mr Zhu was expected to raise the issue of how best to further develop China's fledgling financial markets. There has been an active exchange of officials for several years between the London Stock Exchange and the mainland's stock exchange watchdog, the China Securities Regulatory Commission. Chinese officials said Mr Zhu was keen to expand these links to cover London's highly developed debt and commodities markets. The Bank of England, at Mr Zhu's request, is also expected to provide more information on Britain's own experience with privatisation in the 1980s as part of China's own bid to reform thousands of unwieldy state enterprises.