Taipei, June 13 (CNA) Last month's anti-China riots in Vietnam did not affect the progress of talks on renewing an existing investment protection agreement between Taiwan and Vietnam, a Taiwanese official said Friday.
"The negotiations are still proceeding and have not been affected by the riots," said Lien Yu-ping, director general of the Department of Investment Services under the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
"Instead, the incident has actually made the Vietnamese government realize the need to renew the old pact," she said at a press conference in Taipei, without elaborating.
Speaking of the damage Taiwanese businesses suffered during the attacks, Lien said most of the damage was of a small or medium scale and 90 percent of the Taiwanese companies that were affected have resumed operations to some degree.
The Taiwanese government will do its utmost to help the affected companies and will seek international arbitration if necessary, she added.
Taiwan and Vietnam are scheduled to hold regular joint mediation sessions twice a month to tackle the issue of compensation, Lien told CNA, adding that the first mediation commission meeting took place Wednesday, and "some of our demands have been met."
Deputy Economics Minister Shen Jong-chin will serve as the leader of Taiwan's cross-ministry delegation in meetings with his counterpart, Dang Huy Dong, Vietnam's vice minister of planning and investment.
The two sides will set up task forces to focus on wages and labor; taxes and tariffs; loans and financing; insurance; and security.
The joint mediation commission will try to solve most compensation issues by September, when a ministerial meeting between the two sides is scheduled to take place, according to Lien.
Asked if any Taiwanese companies are considering withdrawing from Vietnam, Lien downplayed the possibility, saying that only "five or six of them in the woodworking and metal processing sectors have consulted the ministry about bringing some investment back to Taiwan."
Taiwanese companies will consider shifting their factories to other places depending on the difficulty of restoring their operations to normal, Lien said, adding that some have decided not to expand their investment in Vietnam.
The riots erupted on May 13 after Vietnamese crowds took to the streets to protest a Chinese oil-drilling venture in an area of the South China Sea that Hanoi insists is in its exclusive economic zone.
Taiwanese businessmen said Friday, however, that the protests had been hijacked by anti-government rioters seeking to hurt Vietnam's economy and were not specifically targeted at ethnic Chinese people.
The riots in the southern provinces of Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Ho Chi Minh city and the central province of Ha Tinh affected 425 Taiwanese enterprises, 25 of which were seriously damaged.
While direct losses ranged between US$150 million to US$500 million, total damages could be as high as US$1 billion once lost profit and other indirect costs are factored in.
(By James Lee)ENDITEM/ls
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(Click here for developments related to the anti-China protest-turned-riot in Vietnam.)