APEC VOF 2022 Report
GraSPP, Legal Policy Program
What is a developed country?
My first visit to Thailand was a journey of reflection on what it means to be a developed country. All my life, I have been living with the perception that Japan is a developed country. However, I began to question whether Japan is a developed country and the definition of a developed country.
What I found different from Japan in Thailand was the convenient digital services in daily life. For example, in medical systems in Thailand, you can receive a doctor’s diagnosis over the phone, make a credit card payment via the Internet, and receive your medicine by delivery. Every Thai citizen has an IC chip-ID card used for event identification. I felt there were many things Japan should learn from Thailand.
On the other hand, during my travels in Thailand, I saw buses without air conditioners and trucks with people riding in the back of the car. While digitalization rapidly progressed in Thailand, there are still scenes of somewhat idyllic daily life. My visit to Thailand made me rethink what it means to be a developed country.
One more fan of Thailand
Through this APEC VOF program, I became a fan of Thailand. Even during my short stay, I could feel the hospitality of the Thai people everywhere.
During the program, one representative from each economy had the opportunity to visit the Thai Prime Minister’s Office. Our original schedule was to present Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha with the declaration we had prepared and take three photos. However, the Prime Minister himself gave us an unscheduled tour of the Prime Minister’s residence. Prime Minister Prayuth spoke to each of us in English, giving us a sense of his friendly personality.
Furthermore, the staff at the Thai secretariat who managed this APEC VOF were also full of hospitality. They accommodated our requests to use their rooms for meetings, and on the bus during the trip, they explained the city of Bangkok and Thai culture. And the hotel staff was also full of kindness. The hotel staff I met the day before I left for Japan said, “Are you going back to Japan tomorrow? Good luck! Please come back and stay with us again.” The hospitality of Prime Minister Prayut, the APEC VOF secretariat, and the hotel staff made me a fan of Thailand.
One of the most exciting aspects of the APEC VOF is the creation of the youth declaration. We bring the voices of young people to the leaders participating in the APEC Summit. This year, under the theme of “Open, Connect, Balance,” we compiled proposals on the future vision of the APEC region that the youth of each economy would like to realize. The most impressive proposal was to realize the free movement of young people in the APEC region. Businesspeople in the APEC region can already come and go smoothly by obtaining an APEC Business Travel Card. We discussed the possibility of extending this mechanism to young people and creating a visa-free travel system for study, work, and internships. All participants immediately agreed, and the proposal was incorporated into the declaration.
I realized that APEC is a forum for free discussion of new ideas. In the limited time available, I felt a sense of unity with the participating members as we worked together to make the declaration.
The APEC VOF Baton
Participating in the APEC VOF was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, and it made me want to learn more about each of the APEC economies and visit them in person. One of the things that surprised me when talking with the participants was that they knew that Japanese kanji names have meanings, and more than one person asked me about my name. I renewed my desire to learn more about the culture of each economy.
Another person who supported Kaori and me was Momori, a GraSPP alumna. She took time out of her busy schedule to participate with us. I received the baton for the APEC VOF Japan team from Momori. Looking ahead to next year, I would like to pass on the baton I received this time to the next generation. In addition, in the year when Japan hosts APEC, I hope to participate in APEC and the APEC VOF as an organizer to return the favor to all the people.