China and the United States have agreed to roll back tariffs on each others' goods as part of the first phase of a trade deal, officials from both sides said on Thursday offering a new sign of progress despite ongoing divisions about the months-long dispute.
The Chinese commerce ministry, without laying out a timetable, said the two countries had agreed to cancel the tariffs in phases.
A US official confirmed the planned rollback as part of a phase one trade agreement that President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping are aiming to sign before the end of the year.
Trump has used tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods as his primary weapon in the trade war between the world's two largest economies.
The prospect of lifting them, even in phases, has drawn fierce opposition from many of his advisers in and outside of the White House and his re-election campaign.
The interim trade pact is widely expected to include a US pledge to scrap tariffs scheduled for Dec 15 on about US$156 billion worth of Chinese imports, including cell phones, laptop computers and toys.
Tariff cancellation was an important condition for any agreement, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said, adding that both must simultaneously cancel some tariffs on each other's goods to reach the phase one pact.
The trade war started with tariffs, and should end with the cancellation of tariffs, Gao told a regular news briefing.
The proportion of tariffs cancelled for both sides to reach a phase one deal must be the same, but the number to be cancelled can be negotiated, he added, without elaborating.
In the past two weeks, the lead negotiators from both sides have had serious and constructive discussions on resolving various core concerns appropriately, Gao said.
Both sides have agreed to cancel additional tariffs in different phases, as both sides make progress in their negotiations.
Republican lawmakers are urging the Trump administration to tie any tariff rollbacks to Beijing's compliance with specific elements of the agreement. The tariffs should be phased out piece by piece as China complies, one congressional source said.
In what could be another gesture to boost optimism, China's state news agency Xinhua reported late on Thursday that the Chinese customs and Ministry of Agriculture are considering removing restrictions on US poultry imports.
China has banned all US poultry and eggs since January 2015 due to an avian influenza outbreak.
Beijing's signal that a phase 1 trade deal with the United States was close to being sealed helped Europe's share markets hit a more than 4-year peak on Thursday and bond yields shuffled higher.
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