BEIJING--China will start a pilot scheme in the first half of next year, aiming to relax restrictions on foreign firms' ownership of new energy and special use vehicles businesses set up in free trade zones, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

In a statement issued after a meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump and China President Xi Jinping, the ministry also said it would gradually cut tariffs for vehicles.

The pledge comes as Tesla plans a factory in Shanghai. The electric car maker wants to expand its presence in China's growing electric vehicle market without compromising its independence or intellectual property norms.

China, which levies a duty of 25 percent on imported vehicles, has not allowed foreign automakers to establish wholly owned factories in the world's largest auto market. Media say it is considering allowing foreign investors to increase stakes in new electric vehicle firms.

The foreign ministry also urged the United States to ease controls on exports of high-tech products to China and support China International Capital Corp. Ltd.'s application for a financial business license in the country.