India is likely miss the exports target of $350 billion it had set for 2012-13, according to Union Minister for Commerce, Industry & Textiles Anand Sharma.

“Exports will instead be around $300 billion for the fiscal year ending March 2013. The year 2012 was full of turmoil owing to the euro crisis. This impacted Indian exports adversely,” he said on the sidelines of a conference organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII),

Responding to a query as to the biggest challenge in India, the minister said, “the real challenge for India and the biggest opportunity are one and that is of job creation and skills training. It has to be not just a wish but a national concern, a national effort and a national priority.”

Mr. Sharma said the share of manufacturing in India’s gross domestic product (GDP), currently at 16 per cent, should go up to 25-26 per cent in a decade to create a minimum of 100 million skilled jobs. The national manufacturing policy announced earlier is a key instrument to achieve this, he said.

“With a large number of poor people, we can ill afford an economic downturn,” he said, adding that it was necessary to go back to a higher growth rate of around 9 per cent per annum. “High growth is not an option but an imperative. The issue has a social dimension and if we do not create jobs, the social cost will be unbearable.”

Mr. Sharma also pointed out that the trade deficit with China was a matter of concern. “We are seeking more access for our industries, particularly in the information technology industry in China and their public healthcare system for our pharmaceutical industry .” He said that with the recent visits of the French President and the British Prime Minister, “the world is looking at us, and we must assume global leadership in the 21 century.”

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