China responded by imposing penalties on $110 billion of American goods, slowing customs clearance for USA companies and suspending issuing licenses in finance and other businesses. For sales going the other direction, the crunch was more immediate.
No schedule for further face-to-face negotiations was released after the talks.
With cooling economic growth raising the urgency for a settlement, this week's talks went ahead despite tension over the arrest of a Chinese tech executive in Canada on US charges related to possible violations of trade sanctions against Iran.
Both Trump and Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan were slated to appear later this month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, providing an opportunity for high-level dialogue. Wall Street was set for early losses.
"I believe China is buying time and waiting to see how things pan out", Ding said.
Among the United States' main demands was that China stop forcing technology transfers and respect intellectual property rights. Lu said he had no details and an official statement would be issued later. "Uncertainty is bad for business".
Trump has complained repeatedly about the United States trade deficit with China, which previous year likely exceeded the 2017 gap of $336 billion.
Given the results of the talks, reports of optimism on both sides suggest that Washington may be willing to settle for a deal that mostly involves addressing the trade deficit by increasing US exports to China. He wouldn't confirm reports that Vice Premier Liu He will visit the U.S. soon to meet U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
That would not only squeeze corporate profitability at home, but also put pressure on global price gains, as export prices usually follow those at factory gate.
Trump said the US tariffs had hurt China.
"I don't think the US will easily remove tariffs that have been imposed on Chinese goods".
China claims nearly all of the strategic South China Sea and frequently lambastes the United States and its allies over naval operations near Chinese-occupied islands.
Beijing has offered concessions on investment regulations and stepping up purchases of American soybeans, natural gas and other exports, seeking to defuse complaints from the US and other trading partners. Even if the current truce is made permanent and the tariffs are eventually rolled back, the damage to many companies may already be done.
"China is determined to bring the trade war to an end", The Economist has reported.
United States companies also want action on Chinese policies they complain improperly favor local companies. They include changes to China's policies on intellectual property protection, technology transfers, industrial subsidies and other non-tariff barriers to trade.
The talks "improved mutual understanding and laid a foundation for resolving issues of mutual concern", the ministry said.
"The length of the meetings shows that both sides were serious and honest about the talks", he said.
So far, the USA side has described the exchanges in a positive light.
A separate geopolitical issue angered China on Monday when a US Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed near disputed islands in the South China Sea - a vast expanse claimed by Beijing. Or, to use President Xi Jinping's words from a speech in December, "We will resolutely reform what should and can be reformed, and make no change where there should not and cannot be any reform".