September 8, 2007 / 4:59 AM / 12 years ago

APEC leaders dress for weather in outback raincoats

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asia-Pacific leaders dressed for the weather on Saturday, posing for the annual APEC “class photo” in Australian stockman’s raincoats on a brisk, overcast early spring day in Sydney.

U.S. President George W. Bush (R) waves as he joins other APEC leaders in wearing Australian outback stockman's rain coats during their official group photo on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, September 8, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed

The final photo-shoot of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum has always provided a flamboyant sidelight to the usually dry affairs, when presidents, prime ministers and even a sultan don the host country’s national dress with varying degrees of aplomb.

The outdoorsmen in the group, U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, looked the part in the dark brown, knee-length, rain-proof coats with collars trimmed in various colours (Bush in blue, Putin in green).

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo should probably donate hers to charity.

The leaders were also given bushmen’s hats to wear, but only Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper put one on.

Then came the moment the 200-strong press corps was waiting for: the wave.

Someone shouted for the leaders to wave, and they all dutifully did so — using their right hands, except Bush who waved a bit self-consciously with his left.

Previous “funny shirt photo ops” at APEC summits have included Chilean ponchos, Chinese silk jackets, Indonesian batik shirts, and American “bomber” jackets. Last year, they wore Vietnamese ao dai silk tunics.

Howard had kept the choice of national dress a secret until the leaders trooped out of the Sydney Opera House after their morning summit in the “Driza-bone” coats (which keep you dry as a bone).

Howard had only said the leaders wouldn’t come out in Speedo swimming trunks, otherwise known as “budgie smugglers”, a common sight on Australian beaches and certainly not appropriate for the weather.

“I don’t think I’d do that. That wouldn’t be very diplomatic,” he said.

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