Nepal has made headlines for the wrong reasons since a Maoist insurgency began almost 10 years ago. But in the corridors of the Convention and Exhibition Centre the delegation from one of the world's poorest countries walks tall as the first 'least developed country' (LDC) to accede to the WTO. With an estimated annual per capita income of US$240, Nepal is one of 50 LDCs (32 of them also World Trade Organisation members) that are supposed to benefit most from the current Doha Development Round. Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Duddhi Man Tamang said his priority was gaining quota-free tariff-free access for all Nepali products - particularly garments, carpets, pashminas, handicrafts, tea and sugar - to developed country markets. 'With the offers on the table currently at around 96 or 98 per cent coverage and excluding sensitive products, we cannot claim to be fully satisfied with the proposals so far,' Mr Tamang said. 'But we can say the talks are moving in a positive direction.' Nepal has seen the gain and the pain of free trade in recent years. Since the EU launched its 'everything but arms' initiative, Nepal has been able to export sugar. On the flip side, the removal of textile quotas this year shattered the country's nascent garment industry by throwing it into competition with the likes of India and China. But that does not seem to have affected its enthusiasm for joining. 'Of course the garment sector suffered a great deal with the removal of export quotas, but we should still regard the elimination of quotas as a positive step,' Mr Tamang said. Duty-free and tariff-free market access would benefit competitive export-capable countries in the short term, 'but over time we also then have the opportunity to expand our exports'. Much of that economic opportunity will depend on a solution to the country's political turmoil. 'In recent times the situation has improved, to the extent that we will hold municipal elections in February in all 58 districts,' the minister said. 'We're hopeful a solution can be reached soon.'