BEIJING--China and the United States are in close contact over trade, and any U.S. trade delegation would be welcome to visit, a commerce ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping this month agreed to a truce that delayed the planned Jan. 1 U.S. increase of tariffs on $200 billion (23 trillion yen) worth of Chinese goods while they negotiate a trade deal.

China has agreed to cut tariffs on U.S.-built cars and auto parts to 15 percent from 40 percent, a Trump administration official said on Tuesday, setting the stage for new talks aimed at easing the dispute between the world's two largest economies.

China's tariff cut was communicated during a phone call between Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the official said.

Both sides are in touch, said Gao Feng, spokesman at the Chinese commerce ministry, when asked at a regular news briefing about details of the Tuesday telephone conversation.

"Both sides exchanged views on the timetable and roadmap for next steps," said Gao, who was also asked if China was planning to send a delegation to the United States to discuss trade.

"At this time, both sides are in close contact. China welcomes the U.S. side to come to China for consultations, and also is open to visiting the United States for talks," he said.

Separately, China on Wednesday bought at least 500,000 tons of U.S. soybeans in its first major purchase of the oilseed since Trump and Xi struck their trade truce at Dec. 1 talks in Argentina, traders said.

"Soybeans have always been an important import product from the United States," said Gao.

"We have a huge domestic market demand."