Top US and Chinese trade negotiators held productive talks in Beijing on Wednesday, the American side said, as the economic superpowers head towards an endgame in a dispute that has hit businesses with bruising tariffs.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, a close aide to President Xi Jinping on economic matters, met with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin ahead of possibly decisive talks in the US next week.

The world’s two leading economies have exchanged tariffs on $360 billion worth of goods since President Donald Trump launched a trade war last year.

“Ambassador Lighthizer and I just concluded productive meetings with China’s Vice Premier Liu He. We will continue our talks in Washington, DC next week,” Mnuchin wrote on Twitter.

The US and Chinese officials posed for pictures but made no statements to journalists about the outcome of the talks after they emerged from their hours-long meeting at the Diaoyutai state guest house.

Liu and the Americans exchanged pleasantries before and after the behind-closed-door talks, joking about wearing the same colour red ties. The Chinese vice premier gave US Ambassador Terry Branstad a blue album with the Chinese state crest on it.

Mnuchin told reporters earlier that he had a “nice” working dinner with Liu on Tuesday night.

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