Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Sheep jokes and food fixations - Key's relaxed trade tour

John Key Meeting ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan. Mr Key's relaxed style has been appreciated on this trip to Indonesia. Photo / Twitpic @johnkeypm
John Key Meeting ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan. Mr Key's relaxed style has been appreciated on this trip to Indonesia. Photo / Twitpic @johnkeypm

He's famously relaxed back home in New Zealand but now Indonesia's Government and business elite are also finding out that Prime Minister John Key, even when hammering his message about trade, is a very laid back leader indeed.

Local guests at the New Zealand Friendship Council Gala dinner in Jakarta last night were heard remarking on the Prime Minister's lack of formality that was, one said, light years away from the stiff public demeanor of Indonesia's president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Mr Key meets President Yudhoyono today, but last night he was clearly enamoured of Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan.

Mr Key had played a round of golf with Mr Wirjawan shortly after he arrived in Jakarta on Sunday and, he told last night's dinner, "had my ass kicked".

Golf was not the only thing the pair had in common - like Mr Key, Mr Wirjawan is a former investment banker.

Earlier yesterday Mr Wirjawan gave a polished speech to a New Zealand-Indonesia business summit which included the first sheep joke of the day.

The second came a few hours later from Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan as he introduced Mr Key to the secretariat before the Prime Minister's speech to the organisation.

Again pressing his message that free trade was not only a cure for economic woes but political ones as well, Mr Key spiced up his offering by telling the audience of three hundred or so delegates that New Zealand was "a country of healthy appetites and we've embraced South East Asian food".

"New Zealanders love nothing more than to sit down to a Thai green curry, an Indonesian rendang beef, Singaporean noodles or a plate of nasi goreng."

Mr Key assured the secretariat that he could name more than a few dishes from their home countries, "but we don't have all day to mention my culinary delights and interests".

Nevertheless he couldn't help but virtually climb into their noodle bowls.

"I can assure you I'm a healthy participant in the foods of the South East Asian region."

- NZ Herald

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