Japanese and Chinese firms from the energy sector signed cooperation agreements Thursday, a sign that they may develop more oil and gas projects together in the near future.

Six deals were signed at the start of the Japan-China energy cooperation seminar Thursday, held as part of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit here.

“This dialogue between Chinese and Japanese companies will create a lot of businesses opportunities, and we welcome Japanese companies to come and do business in China,” Ma Kai, head of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, said in his opening address to the group.

Ma was speaking to about 650 business executives people from oil, gas, electricity and other energy-related companies. It was the first meeting of its kind between the two countries.

“The seminar today and (joint oil and gas projects) will help raise Japanese and Chinese companies’ competitiveness,” trade minister Akira Amari said.

Japan’s biggest oil refiner, Nippon Oil Corp., and China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) signed a deal for long-term cooperation in oil and natural gas.

That deal came just a day after Wen and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to accelerate talks on the dispute over who has the right to drill in oil and gas field in a region of the East China Sea that both sides claim.

“Japan and China will continue holding talks aiming to resolve the (East China Sea) issue by the fall. We will speed up negotiations to come up with concrete measures” of how to proceed, Amari told reporters after the seminar.

Trading house Mitsui & Co.’s U.K. unit struck a deal with CNOOC Ltd. to procure liquefied natural gas through spot trading. Sumitomo Corp., another Japanese trading house, Kyushu Electric Power Co. and China Datang Corp. have also agreed to cooperate in the development of renewable energy sources, including wind power, hydroelectric, biomass and solar energy.

During Wen’s visit to Japan, energy conservation and the environment have been high on agenda. Wen and Abe said Wednesday that China, the second-largest consumer of oil, and Japan, which is the third, will cooperate in the energy sector to cut greenhouse gas emission.

China’s energy demand has been increasing rapidly due to its rocketing economic growth and it is facing international pressure to cut its energy consumption.

Ma said Beijing has set targets to cut energy consumption by 20 percent of the level in 2005 and to cut the emission of major pollutants by 10 percent by 2010.

He was also confident that cooperation between the two countries to increase fuel efficiency would help stabilize global energy security.

“I’m confident that our cooperation will be beneficial, not only for the two countries but also for the Asia-Pacific region and the whole world,” Ma said, adding that energy consumption by China and Japan accounted for one-fifth of total consumption in the world in 2005.

Ma and Amari met on the sidelines of the trade seminar to talk about energy. They reaffirmed the importance of the energy accord they signed the previous day. The pact says the two countries will strengthen cooperation in development he of clean coal technology and energy savings.

Amari and Ma also agreed that the energy ministers from the two sides would hold a policy dialogue once a year.

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