Japan and China are expected to agree as early as this month on resuming travel by both short- and long-term businesspeople between the two countries, Japanese government sources said Tuesday.
The nations are looking to revive their coronavirus pandemic-hit economies, the world's second and third largest, through a restart of two-way business travel.
Some 9.59 million people visited Japan from China in 2019, including around 370,000 for business, both the largest numbers among all countries and regions, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.
"Japan and China are extremely important neighbors to each other and there had been many reciprocal trips before the outbreak of the coronavirus," Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press conference, without specifying when the bilateral agreement will be reached.
"It is extremely important that economic exchanges (between Japan and China) return to a recovery path through the resumption of travel," Kato said.
Under the envisioned agreement, short-term business travelers will be exempted from having to enter 14-day self-isolation upon arrival to the respective countries provided they take necessary preventive measures against spreading the coronavirus, such as turning in their travel itineraries and providing proof of negative test results, the sources said.
Expatriates and other long-term residents will still need to stay in quarantine for 14 days, they said. Students will also be allowed to visit Japan and China if they observe a self-quarantine period.
Japanese and Chinese officials have been in negotiations to reopen borders reciprocally since July, given the relatively low number of coronavirus infections in their respective countries, they said.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in their first telephone call in September to continue talks in hopes of achieving a speedy resumption of business travel.
If reached, the two countries' bilateral agreement on the restart of short-term business trips will be Japan's fourth following similar deals with Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.
Japan, which began imposing entry bans on foreign nationals in February to curb the spread of the coronavirus, has recently started to reopen its borders as part of efforts to revive the domestic economy.