BEIJING (Kyodo) -- A group of Japanese business leaders met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Tuesday for a second consecutive year, reflecting improved Sino-Japanese ties, and agreed to deepen cooperation and strive to maintain the free trade system.
At the beginning of the talks, Li said "development of economic cooperation relations between our two countries will boost the recovery of the world economy," which has partly become unstable due to intensified trade friction between the United States and its trading partners.
Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, also known as Keidanren, responded, "At times like these, it is important for us to join hands to raise high the flag of free trade."
Both sides favored early realization of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a scheme involving the 10-member Association of South east Asian Nations, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
The Japanese delegation that met with Li at the Great Hall of the People also included members of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Japan-China Economic Association.
The meeting came amid an improvement in bilateral relations that have often been strained by territorial and historical issues.
Executives from major Japanese companies have been sending a mission to Beijing almost annually since 1975, but there are years when it fails to meet with Chinese leaders due to poor government-to-government relations.
When Li previously met with them in November 2017, it marked the first time since 2009 for a Chinese premier or president to accept their request for a meeting. In 2016, the business group met with Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli as Li was on an overseas trip.
At the latest meeting, the delegation asked the Chinese side to improve the business environment such as through protection of intellectual property rights, and listed the financial soundness of target countries and the transparency of projects as prerequisites to cooperate in developing third country markets.
They also requested China's support for Osaka's candidacy to host the 2025 World Expo.
The delegation met separately with top officials of China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
In addition to utilizing digital technology, the two sides exchanged opinions on cooperation in the development of next-generation, environmentally friendly cars that conserve energy.