China and the US must simultaneously cancel some tariffs on each other’s goods for both sides to reach a “phase one” trade deal, said Gao Feng, spokesman at the commerce ministry.
The tariff cancellation is an important condition for there to be any agreement, he said at a regular news briefing.
The proportion of tariffs cancelled must be the same, and how many tariffs should be cancelled can be negotiated, Gao told reporters.
“The trade war started with tariffs, and should end with the cancellation of tariffs,” Gao told reporters.
He did not give a timeline.
A source had previously told the Reuters news agency that Chinese negotiators wanted the US to drop 15 percent tariffs on about $125bn worth of Chinese goods that went into effect on September 1.
They are also seeking relief from earlier 25 percent tariffs on about $250bn of imports from machinery and semiconductors to furniture.
A person familiar with China’s negotiating position said it was pressing Washington to “remove all tariffs as soon as possible”.
Dozens of venues have been suggested for a meeting, which had originally been scheduled to take place on the sidelines of a now-cancelled mid-November summit of Asia Pacific leaders in Chile, a senior official of the Trump administration told Reuters on Wednesday.
One possible location was London, where the two leaders could meet after a NATO summit that Trump is due to attend from December 3-4, the official said.
Gao declined to say when and where such a meeting could be.