With a March 1 deadline fast approaching, USA and Chinese officials resume negotiations next week to prevent escalation of a trade dispute that has major implications for the global economy.
In December, Washington suspended for three months its plan to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports - to 25 per cent from the current 10 per cent - to allow time for negotiators to work out a trade spat that has triggered fears of a global economic slowdown.
And President Donald Trump's aggressive strategy has failed to produce a reduction in the U.S. trade deficit with China, which he set as a primary goal.
The two countries are trying to hammer out a trade deal weeks ahead of a March deadline when USA tariffs on Chinese goods are scheduled to increase.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will join higher principal-level talks Thursday and Friday.
And top White House economist Larry Kudlow said Thursday that while Trump was "optimistic" about prospects for a deal, there remained a "sizable distance" separating the two sides.
A new round of trade talks between the USA and China begins in Beijing this week, with both sides hoping to reach a trade deal by the end of this month.
President Trump has also said he's unlikely to meet President Xi Jinping before the deadline, dampening hopes of a speedy resolution.
While China has offered to buy more U.S. soybeans and beef, officials have yet even to agree on a draft of a deal that would address key USA concerns, according to media reports.
The Trump administration is demanding far-reaching changes from China to address commercial practices that it says are deeply unfair, including theft of American intellectual property and myriad barriers that United States and other foreign companies face in the Chinese domestic market.
However, amid pressure from the business community for the two sides to resolve the dispute, CNBC cited a senior administration official saying the March 1 deadline could be pushed back. "It could change via telephone".
Deputy trade representative Jeffrey Gerrish would lead the USA delegation in preparatory meetings to begin on Monday, the White House has said.
Mnuchin and Lighthizer will be joined by David Malpass, Trump's nominee for president of the World Bank.
However, strident White House China critic Peter Navarro was not listed as part of the USA team.