Singapore has become the latest country to broker trade ties with Myanmar, by signing an agreement to co-operate on trade finance and legal issues.

The Memorandum of Understanding will lead to Singapore advising the emerging nation on banking supervision, as well as the development of an inter-bank lending environment.

It will include joint workshops on trade finance, transport and logistics, sharing ideas on how to support exporting SMEs, while similar initiatives will take place to help develop Myanmar’s nascent legal market.

The country just recently emerged from a punitive sanctions regime and has been widely recognised as one of the Asian nations with the most trade and investment potential. However, it is also widely acknowledged that it could scarcely be coming from a lower base.

There has been a scramble to become involved in the construction and connectivity of a nation cut off from technological developments and progression as a result of its military junta and US-led embargoes on trade and investment.

Norway’s Telenor and Ooredoo of Qatar were granted the lucrative contracts to develop Myanmar’s virtually non-existent telecoms network, while this year is expected to see the major Japanese trade finance banks – BTMU, SMBC and Mizuho – all open their first Burmese branches.

Japan maintained relatively genial ties with the military regime through the sanctions and, indeed, some allege that it was involved in its financing. Japanese contractors have been the first movers in the construction industry since the country was reopened for business, with energy companies also chasing suspected abundant energy reserves.

A trade delegation of companies from both Singapore and Myanmar attended this week’s summit, with the government in Myanmar keen to broker stronger ties with its more affluent neighbours, ahead of an election later this year.

It’s been widely expected that the party of Myanmar’s icon of democracy Aung San Suu Kyi – the National League for Democracy – would romp to victory (although Suu Kyi herself is not permitted to stand for election, since she is married to a foreign national). The elections will take place in November.