US President Donald Trump said negotiators had reached a "phase one deal" that would include increased agricultural purchases and address financial services and technology theft, the BBC reported on Friday.
China's top negotiator Liu He also said he was "happy" with the progress.
The US was due to raise tariffs on some Chinese goods to 30 per cent next week.
US share markets, which had risen on reports of a deal, closed higher, but shed some gains in the final minutes of trade as it became clear any agreement was relatively limited.
"We've come to a deal, pretty much, subject to getting it written," Trump said, adding that negotiators would begin discussing additional phases as soon as this set of agreements is put to paper.
Trump said he might sign the deal alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping at a United Nations summit in Chile in December.
The US has claimed progress in the past on similar issues, such as increased agricultural purchases and foreign exchange and currency, without the dispute being resolved.
Another planned tariff hike, in December, remains on the table, said Robert Lighthizer, America's top trade negotiator.
Lobby group Farmers for Free Trade said the promise of increased agricultural purchases - to $40bn -$50bn, according to Trump - was welcome, but noted that details were scant.
"While we are pleased that tariffs aren't going up, this agreement seemingly does nothing to address the crippling tariffs farmers currently face," said Brian Kuehl, the group's co-executive director.
"From the very beginning of the trade war, farmers have been promised that their patience would be rewarded. To date, the deal they've been promised has not come."