It was never going to be flattering

20:53, Oct 07 2013
Apec silly shirts
VLAD TO MEET YOU: John Key gets into the frame as Russian President Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of State John Kerry shake hands.

John Key's been busy in Bali. He's photobombed an informal meeting between world superpowers and has also sung to Russia's president.

A Reuter's photographer caught New Zealand's prime minister as the backdrop for an exchange between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the "silly shirt" segment of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Summit (Apec).

The Apec meeting wraps up today with the leaders posing for the "silly shirt" group photo where they model traditional clothes of the host nation.

Key said his shirt was batik and mainly blue, although it was actually multi-coloured and reporters would be right if they picked any colour.

In the photo of Putin, Kerry and an unsuspecting Key, Putin is wearing an almost camouflage-green number, while Kerry's shirt featured heavy purple tones.

Local media reports said the shirts were made of endek, a traditional woven fabric from Bali. Key said it would be cooler than wearing a suit and he was looking forward to changing into it.

But he stopped short of describing the shirt photo as a "highlight" of Apec gatherings.

"It's a memento," he said.

"That's the way to describe it."

And while relations between New Zealand and Russia have been strained recently, with progress stalled on free-trade talks and Russia banning Fonterra dairy products after the recent contamination scare, it didn't stop Key exercising his lungs for Putin.

Key joined other leaders in singing happy birthday to the Russian president at the start of a leaders' retreat at the summit yesterday.

Key said he had not led the rendition, which would be "a relief to anyone who had heard him sing". There was no present for Putin, who turned 61, although there was a cake.

It looked like a chocolate number but it was whisked away before the leaders could sample it, Key said. "I nearly got bowled over in their excitement to give it to him," he said.

The Apec summit involves the leaders of 21 of the world's economies, but while the event aims to push for more trading opportunities, more jobs and better standards of living for the member countries, it's also widely known for the "silly shirt" photo op, where the world leaders who attend don the exotic garments that have been picked by the host country.

GOOD COMPANY: Apec leaders and their spouses. Left-to-right, front row: China's First Lady Peng Liyuan, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, First Lady Ani Yudhoyono, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang. Left-to-right, back row: South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and wife Rosmah Mansor, Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto and his wife Angelica Rivera, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Peru's President Ollanta Humala. Photo: Reuters