China and the United States have begun behind-the-scenes negotiations to improve American access to the Chinese domestic market, the Wall Street Journal said today. News of the talks follow days rife with tension, raising the specter of a trade war between the world's top economies. The daily paper said the discussions - led by China's economic "czar" Liu He, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and US trade representative Robert Lighthizer - cover topics including manufacturing and financial services, citing anonymous sources close to the issue. US President Donald Trump recently announced the United States would impose new tariffs on some USD 60 billion of Chinese imports, news that rattled global financial markets. China responded by unveiling a list of 128 products it would hit with customs duties in the event that talks failed. Mnuchin and Lighthizer sent Liu a letter last week spelling out requests including greater US access to China's financial sector, the reduction of Chinese tariffs on US vehicles and for China to increase its US semiconductor purchases. The WSJ said Mnuchin is also considering a Beijing trip to continue the talks. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, the US treasury secretary said "we're working on a pathway to see if we can reach an agreement as to what fair trade is for them." "I am cautiously hopeful we reach an agreement, but if not we are proceeding with these tariffs."