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05 March 2024

Taylor Swift steals show at Asian summit as Singapore defends tour stop deal

05 March 2024

Taylor Swift stole the show at an Asian summit as Singapore’s leader defended his tiny country’s lucrative concert deal that could cause bad blood with neighbouring nations.

Singapore is a key member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a 10 nation bloc known as ASEAN.

Its three-day summit was expected to focus on member Myanmar’s humanitarian crisis and conflicts in the South China Sea.

Instead, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was grilled on the summit’s sidelines about an exclusive deal his city-state struck with Ms Swift that prevents the singer from taking her Eras Tour to any other stop in southeast Asia.

Ms Swift is performing six concerts from March 2 to March 9 in Singapore, and some southeast Asian neighbours have complained that the Singapore deal deprives them of the tourism boom her concerts bring to hosts.

The star’s Eras Tour shattered records when it reportedly surpassed 1 billion dollars last year, and her film adaptation of the tour quickly took No. 1 at the box office and became the highest-grossing concert film to date.

The Singaporean leader confirmed on Tuesday that Ms Swift was provided with “certain incentives” in exchange for making Singapore her only southeast Asian destination on her Eras Tour.

Mr Lee defended the deal at a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, a self-professed “Swiftie” whose Spotify Wrapped list boasted Taylor Swift as his second most streamed artist of 2023.

Mr Albanese is hosting the summit in Melbourne, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Australia becoming ASEAN’s first external partner.

Mr Lee did not reveal the cost of the exclusive deal, which was paid for from a government fund established to rebuild tourism after Covid-19 disruptions.

He also did not directly answer when asked if he had encountered “bad blood” among other leaders due to the deal, instead suggesting that if Singapore hadn’t struck an exclusive deal, a neighbouring country might have done so.

“It has turned out to be a very successful arrangement. I don’t see that as being unfriendly,” Mr Lee said.

Thailand’s Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, brought attention to the deal in February with a public claim that a promoter told him the Singaporean government subsidised the concert with a condition that the artist does not play anywhere else in southeast Asia.

Mr Thavisin said that if he had known about the deal before, he was confident he would be able to pull off something similar.

But Thailand does not “hold it against” Singapore, said Prommin Lertsuridej, the secretary-general of the Prime Minister.

He told reporters in a group interview on Monday that Thailand took what Singapore did as an example, and while Thailand already has some laws in place to allow such incentive packages, the government is working to remove red tape and make Thailand a more attractive venue for international events.

Mr Lee said that, while he didn’t know what Australia’s arrangements were, he expected it similarly made “mutually acceptable, sensible arrangements” with Ms Swift when she performed in Melbourne and Sydney — one of which Australia’s prime minister attended — before flying to Singapore.

Ms Swift’s representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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