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Taylor Swift’s Singapore leg spurs bad blood in SE Asia. Neighbors can’t shake it off

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HONG KONG — Pop star Taylor Swift is in Singapore this week, performing six sold-out shows in the city state. But the concerts — and what the government did to secure them — have sparked some bad blood between Singapore and neighboring Southeast Asian countries and territories.

Singapore this week confirmed it negotiated a deal with Swift’s concert promoters, paying an undisclosed sum of money to ensure that Singapore was her only stop in the region.

Rumors of the exclusive deal had sparked outcry among Southeast Asian neighbors, with a Philippine lawmaker demanding an explanation, Thailand’s prime minister claiming Singapore paid millions of dollars per concert for the deal, and Hong Kong’s chief executive insisting his city was still an attractive destination for mega events.

Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, defended the exclusive deal at a press conference on Tuesday.

“A deal was reached. And so it has turned out to be a very successful arrangement. I don’t see that as being unfriendly,” he said at an Asian summit in Melbourne.

Lee added that an “incentive” had been paid for the deal. The Singapore Tourism Board declined to comment on the amount, citing business confidentiality. AEG Presents, Swift’s concert promoter, did not respond to a request for comment.

Following Lee’s remarks, Philippine lawmaker Joey Salceda told a local newspaper that Singapore was operating by “the law of the jungle” and not the law of a “neighborhood of countries bound by supposed principles of solidarity and consensus.”

Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines typically enjoy smooth diplomatic relations. They are all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, a regional economic and security bloc.

Underneath the heated rhetoric is a growing industry worth billions of dollars. Event tourism — like Swift’s concerts — brings in a lot of money for cities. Research firm Business Markets Insights expects the Asia Pacific events market to grow to nearly 550 billion dollars by 2028.

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