With more USA tariff increases on the way, China is unlikely to pare back its response by exempting soybeans and autos.
Some analysts view the move as a friendly gesture but don't see it as a signal that both sides are readying a deal.
Iris Pang, economist at ING, points out that China's State Council has exempted some tariffs on U.S. goods and the 16 items exempted from the additional 25% tariffs are mostly lubricants and fodder.
Top Chinese negotiators will travel to Washington for talks in the coming weeks, and lower-level officials will also hold discussions this month. An exemption list of just 16 items will not change China's stance.
The Chinese government began accepting applications for tariff exemptions in May, but it is the first time they have stated which products will be excluded.
Washington and Beijing have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's products.
Beijing's earlier tariff hikes avoided processor chips and other US technology required by Chinese industry. The United States is by far China's largest supplier of whey, which is an important ingredient in piglet feed and hard to source in large volumes from elsewhere.
China has raised duties on about $120 billion of USA products, economists estimate.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai said just 47 percent said they expected to increase their investments in China in 2019 - down from 62 percent past year - while three-quarters of businesses surveyed said they opposed the U.S. use of punitive tariffs to force China into a trade deal.
The long-running trade war between China and the United States has seen them swap tariffs on goods worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
In all, the world's two largest economies have slapped tit-for-tat tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods in a bitter trade war that has dragged on for well over a year and raised the spectre of a global recession.
The exemptions announced Wednesday will become effective on September 17 and be valid for one year, according to the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council, which released two lists that include seafood products and anti-cancer drugs. "Most of these included medical equipment and parts, which are high-value products".
Wednesday's announcement comes before Chinese trade deputies are expected to meet with their USA counterparts in mid-September in Washington. Trump has warned China will face a tougher USA negotiating stance if he is re-elected.
Trump has imposed or announced penalties on about $550 billion of Chinese products, or nearly everything the United States buys from China.
But senior White House adviser Peter Navarro tamped down expectations for the next rounds of trade talks, urging investors, businesses and the public to be patient about resolving trade dispute.
Further rounds of Chinese exemptions will be announced in due course, the ministry said.