Wednesday April 17th, 2024 8:48AM

Singapore prime minister defends exclusive deal with Taylor Swift that riles some neighbors

By The Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was called on during a key regional summit on Tuesday to defend an exclusive deal his city-state struck with Taylor Swift that prevents the pop star taking her current Eras Tour to anywhere else in Southeast Asia.

Swift is performing six concerts from March 2 to 9 in Singapore under an exclusive deal that has been criticized by some Southeast Asian neighbors who complain they have been deprived of the tourist boom that her concerts have brought elsewhere.

In a sign of the international phenomenon that Swift has become, the veteran Singaporean statesman was asked by a journalist to confirm the deal and to comment on whether it undermined the spirit of cooperation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a 10-nation bloc known by the acronym ASEAN of which Singapore is a key member.

Lee was at a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, a 60-year-old self-professed Swiftie who has revealed that Swift took second place in his 2023 Spotify Wrapped list after her fellow U.S. diva Lana Del Ray. The wrap is the steaming giant’s annual feature that tallies the songs a listener has played the most over the past year.

Albanese is hosting the ASEAN summit in the Australian city of Melbourne that marks 50 years since Australia became the bloc’s first external partner.

Other questions at the news conference covered issues including increasing tensions in the South China Sea, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the likelihood of China joining in a regional free trade pact known by the unwieldy acronym CPTPP.

Lee confirmed that Swift was provided with “certain incentives” from a government fund established to rebuild the tourism industry after COVID-19 disruptions to make Singapore her only Southeast Asian destination. He did not say how much the deal cost.

He said he did not regard the deal as unfriendly toward his ASEAN neighbors.

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

Lee did not directly answer when asked if he had encountered “bad blood” among other leaders due to the deal.

Lees suggested that if Singapore hadn’t struck an exclusive deal, a neighboring country might have done so.

“Sometimes one country makes a deal, sometimes another country does. I don’t explicitly say ‘you will come here only on condition that you’ll not go to other places,’” Lee said.

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

Lee said he expected that Australia similarly made “mutually acceptable, sensible arrangements” with Swift when she performed in Sydney and Melbourne before flying to Singapore. Lee said he didn't know what Australia's arrangements were.

“If that’s what’s needed to be done to get an outcome which is mutually beneficial and which, from Singapore’s point of view, serves not just to grow the economy but also to bring in visitors and goodwill from all over the region, I don’t see why not,” Lee said.

“If we had not made such an arrangement, would she have come to someplace else in Southeast Asia or more places in Southeast Asia? Maybe, maybe not. These are things that she will decide,” Lee added.

Albanese attended one of Swift’s Sydney concerts last month.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Entertainment, APOnline Celebrity News
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