Indonesian President Joko Widodo has arrived in Wellington to mark 60 years of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and Indonesia. A large gathering assembled to officially welcome Widodo, on what is his first visit to the country, on Monday morning.
A group of combined armed services – a 100-person guard of honour – combined with school students from Scots College, Newlands College and Wellington College and a Maori cultural group greeted him. Widodo inspected the guard of honour while a 21-gun salute fired in the distance, as was standard for a head of state.
Trade will be the main topic on the agenda during Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s first visit to New Zealand on Monday. Tension on the trade-front has lessened between the two countries in recent years with Indonesia dropping trade barriers against New Zealand by order of the World Trade Organisation last year.
Widodo and Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and their respective partners and officials met following the official welcome. Reddy said she was thrilled to have her guests, the first visit of its kind from Indonesia since 2005. She said it was “very timely” and an acknowledgement of decades of friendship between the two countries.
Through a translator Widodo thanked Reddy for the welcome and said he “came with a message of friendship from all the people of Indonesia”. The meeting with the Governor-General would be followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at Pukeahu National War Memorial.
Bilaterial discussions would be held with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Parliament on Monday afternoon, where the pair were expected to talk trade. Widodo was accompanied by his wife, ministers and a business delegation.
Indonesia is a major market for New Zealand meat, dairy and agriculture exports, with total two-way goods trade of $1.76 billion in 2017. The country also has the world’s fourth-largest population, and is the largest economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“President Widodo’s visit is an opportunity to increase trade between New Zealand and Indonesia as well as discuss how we can tackle issues of common interest in the Asia-Pacific region,” Ardern said. She first met Widodo at the East Asia Summit in November last year. The president would also meet with Opposition leader Simon Bridges on Monday evening.
Widodo is often referred to as Jokowi, and has been described by some as “Indonesia’s Obama”. He is a fan of heavy metal, and comes from a middle-class background, with a forestry degree. He turned to politics in 2005, when he was elected mayor of Surakarta, a city in Java.
Since being elected in 2014, Widodo has pursued an ambitious infrastructure overhaul, and similar to the current New Zealand Government, has talked about increasing his country’s aid spend. However, he also has also taken a hardline stance against drugs, similar to his Philippines counterpart President Rodrigo Duterte.
Widodo’s war on drugs has included judicial executions. The president’s visit comes ahead of a visit by former US president Barak Obama later in the week.