The head of Japan's biggest business lobby Keidanren on Tuesday called for wage hikes this year that exceed the inflation rate, setting the tone for annual wage talks that may pave the way for the Bank of Japan (BOJ) to exit its ultraeasy monetary policy.

At stake in this year's spring negotiations between trade unions and large Japanese firms, analysts say, is whether wages will rise far enough to ignite the sustainable inflation that policymakers consider a prerequisite for ending negative interest rates.

The talks are due to conclude in mid-March.