It appears trade talks between the USA and China are going well as reports suggest the two sides are getting closer on settling their differences.
The results of the talks are expected to be analysed at a separate meeting between U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He after which the two sides were expected to announce a decision.
Asked if that meant the talks had been hard, Lu said: "I can only say that extending the consultations shows that the two sides were indeed very serious in conducting the consultations".
World markets rose Wednesday on increasing optimism that the two sides would be able to hammer out a deal ahead of a March deadline and avert further import tariff hikes - though Asian stocks were mostly down on Thursday. That meeting would likely include a senior Chinese government official along with trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
China's Commerce Ministry says that the United States and Beijing made progress in discussions about structural issues such as forced technology transfers and intellectual property rights during trade talks this week.
It also said the negotiations dealt with the need for "ongoing verification and effective enforcement". Whatever the immediate outcome of the trade talks, the U.S. confrontation with China is set to intensify across the board and is leading down the path of a catastrophic war between two nuclear-armed powers.
The US highlighted China's pledge to purchase more agriculture and other goods, without providing specifics. Trump has said he would increase those duties to 25 percent from 10 percent now if no deal is reached by March 2, and has threatened to tax all imports from China if Beijing fails to cede to U.S. demands.
Washington is pressing Beijing for changes including rolling back plans for government-led creation of Chinese global champions in robotics and other fields.
Mofcom spokesman Gao Feng said that these issues were an important item of the negotiations, and that progress has been made.
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on December 1 to postpone more tariff hikes on each other's goods for 90 days while they negotiate.
This week's talks went ahead despite tension over the arrest of a Chinese tech executive in Canada on USA charges related to possible violations of trade sanctions against Iran.
China has already made significant concessions on trade and other U.S. economic demands, including the recommencement of Chinese purchases of American soybeans and a lowering of tariffs on American cars.
Tesla broke ground this week in Shanghai on its first factory outside the U.S. Musk said production of its Model 3 would start late this year.
Mike Bell, a global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, said it was clear that USA growth will fade in 2019, while presenting the bank's "Guide to Markets" at an event in London on Wednesday.
Companies in both countries are feeling pain from the effects of the tariffs.
"It certainly has hurt the Chinese economy", Ross told CNBC, noting that China exports many more goods to the United States than the other way around.
China's trade data for the full year of 2018 is due to be released on January 14, and economists see year-on-year export growth slowing in December from November.
Liu's appearance at the talks is a "symbol of Xi's personal buy-in" in the effort to reach a deal, said Leland Miller, chief executive officer of China Beige Book, a data-analytics firm that surveys companies across the Chinese economy.