BEIJING (AP) – Top Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators spoke by phone and agreed to continue to work toward a preliminary agreement for resolving their tariff war, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said Tuesday.

In a brief notice, the ministry said that Vice Premier Liu He and other senior officials spoke with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin early Tuesday Beijing time.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the two sides discussed "solving issues regarding each other's core concerns, reached consensus on properly resolving related issues and agreed to maintain communication on remaining issues in consultations on the Phase 1 deal."

The announcement was not immediately confirmed by the U.S. side. It came after Wall Street stuck new record highs Monday following the announcement by Beijing of new guidelines for the protection of patents and copyrights.

Theft of such intellectual property has been a sore point in the trade war between the world's largest economies, and markets saw China's move as an encouraging sign for negotiations on the first phase of a deal.

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