While China has offered to buy more United States 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.
Mid-level officials began discussions Monday in preparation for two days of talks starting Thursday involving U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was "looking forward" to crunch negotiations with China as he emerged in Beijing on Tuesday with global attention focused on whether the two sides can reach a trade deal.
After that date, US tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent.
President Trump has also said he's unlikely to meet President Xi Jinping before the deadline, dampening hopes of a speedy resolution.
"I could see myself letting that slide for a little while", Trump of the March 2 deadline. China would likely respond by raising tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S goods that it announced a year ago in retaliation.
"The key is whether the USA and China can find common ground", said He Weiwen, a former commerce ministry official and now a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, an independent research group.
A growing number of US businesses and lawmakers have expressed hopes for a delay in the tariff increase while the two sides tackle the hard USA demands for major "structural" policy changes by China aimed at ending the forced transfer of American trade secrets, curbing Beijing's industrial subsidies and enforcing intellectual property rights.
The White House said there would be a preparatory meeting of senior officials beginning February 11 and the talks would include officials from the Agriculture, Energy and Commerce Departments.
But US stock markets were less enthusiastic about prospects for a deal, with any optimism overshadowed by concerns about another government shutdown and a diminished 2019 US corporate earnings outlook. "And, absolutely, you know, we've put everything on the table, including IP theft and forced technology transfer and so on".