US and Chinese officials are working on a deal to postpone tariffs set to hit Chinese imports in five days, according to a media report on Tuesday.

Delaying the new duties, which cover about $160 billion in imports from China, including consumer favorites like mobile phones, could help reassure markets the two sides are making progress towards ending their trade war.

Officials in Washington and Beijing say they now expect to continue talking beyond December 15, when the tariffs are due to kick in, according to The Wall Street Journal.

US officials have reiterated that any final decision on the tariffs belongs to President Donald Trump.

At a Wall Street Journal conference on Tuesday, top White House economic aide Larry Kudlow maintained that "those tariffs are still on the table," the newspaper reported.

Kudlow had said Friday a deal was "still close."

Shipping containers are stacked at the Port of Los Angeles on November 7
Shipping containers are stacked at the Port of Los Angeles on November 7 GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / MARIO TAMA

For two months, the two sides have struggled to finalize a partial deal that Trump announced in October.

Statements by US officials have run hot and cold in recent days, with markets swooning last week after Trump said a deal could wait until after next year's elections.

Trump launched his trade war in March 2018, demanding that China end practices widely seen as unfair -- such as forced transfer of American technology from US companies, and massive subsidies given to Chinese firms.

But observers say Beijing is highly unlikely to make the kind of profound changes to the structure of its economy sought by Washington, which could politically undermine the Communist Party.

Trump also has sought pledges from Beijing to make enormous purchases of US farm exports that experts say may exceed demand in China, and the capacity of US farmers.

Should the December 15 tariffs take effect, the last in a series punitive duties, virtually all the merchandise the United States imports annually from China will be covered by punitive tariffs.