Minister-level talks on energy and a preliminary meeting on economic matters got under way Thursday as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao enjoyed the fruit of their efforts to improve a relationship described as “mutually beneficial based on common strategic interests.”

But little about the future goals and agenda for the two talks was decided.

During the economic dialogue, Foreign Minister Taro Aso proposed that trade and investment, macroeconomic, multilateral cooperation and other issues be put on the agenda for high-level meetings set to start by year’s end in Beijing. Aso will cochair the talks with Chinese Vice Premier Zhen Peiyan.

But a Foreign Ministry official who briefed reporters said the two sides did not agree what to discuss at the first meeting. “We want to decide the agenda flexibly,” the official said.

Trade minister Akira Amari hinted that the dialogues were set up so the two sides could hold talks on a regular basis, even if the political atmosphere gets chilly.

“Until now, if a problem erupted, we were not sure if we could even hold talks when the environment of both nations is shaky,” Amari told reporters. “It is meaningful to hold talks on a regular basis and talk about issues that surface then.”

The energy dialogue will be held once a year and is expected to address energy conservation and other issues.

Knowhow needed

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao asked Japanese business leaders for further cooperation Thursday, saying the expertise and technologies they have cultivated since the war are essential to sustaining China’s economic growth.

“We particularly need to cooperate in the areas of energy saving, environmental conservation, high technologies and financial matters,” Wen said at a luncheon in Tokyo attended by about 370 business and senior government officials from the two countries.

Wen, who arrived Wednesday for a three-day visit, said problems and challenges being created by China’s fast-growing economy are in many aspects similar to what Japan went through as it rebuilt after World War II.

To achieve sustainable growth, the premier said China has a lot to learn from Japan’s experiences, noting that he watched the blockbuster film “Always — Sanchome no Yuhi” (“Always — Sunset on Third Street”) before coming here to better understand life in postwar Japan.

Wen also said China is and will remain one of the most attractive investment destinations for foreign companies, because of its huge market and cheap, high-caliber workforce.

“Our two countries must realize prosperity for our descendants by joining hands and developing peacefully,” he said.

Fujio Mitarai, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), said China’s development rests on how well it can address environmental and energy problems.

“In connection with these matters, our country’s business circles will also help promote cooperation and business between Japan and China,” Mitarai said.

The luncheon was hosted by major Japanese business bodies, Nippon Keidanren, the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Japan-China Economic Association.

The visit, which Wen defined as an “ice-melting” journey to mend ties between the countries, is the first to Japan by a Chinese premier since 2000, following the “ice-breaking” trip to China last October by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Mitarai met with Wen last September in Beijing and invited him to visit Japan for discussions with top Japanese business leaders.

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