US-China Trade Negotiations in Chicago Today

It’s not every day that important negotiations take place outside of national capitals. The The US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade summit is no exception. Today’s negotiations in Chicago are just the second time in a quarter of a century that they have been held outside of Washington or Beijing. And the stakes are quite high.

Copyright Andrew Levin 2013
Copyright Andrew Levin 2013

As you can see from my infographic, Illinois relies highly on exports and China is our 4th largest destination. But they import just $4 billion per year which is far less than from other major states. There is a lot of room to grow.

Plus, many activities occur outside the main talks. It is at these events far from the negotiating table that many business deals actually get done. The Tribune has high hopes for these ancillary events, as do I.


Veterans Day: Thank you for your service

Embed from Getty Images Veterans Day celebration in Naperville.

Looking for Spring 2015 Classes?

I am happy to offer two great classes next semester. I hope you all sign up. And remember that you can use transfer these classes back to almost any college/university in Illinois. Simply sign up as a ‘Student-at-Large’.


Most of the world’s economic growth and political power over the next few decades is likely to come from the Non-Western World. In this course, we will review the history of these diverse, yet intriguingly similar, regions. Then we will use the comparative method to better understand these countries today. We will end with a look towards the future. We will be studying China, Indonesia, Iran, Turkey, Mexico, and Nigeria in a greater depth. This class is entirely online, which may be easier for students at other schools to join in.


This isn’t a high school civics class. On the contrary, we take the basics of US government and apply these to many topical issues that affect you today: unlimited election spending, gun rights, student loans, marijuana legalization, drone strikes, online privacy, and more. Some have referred to the US Constitution as an experiment; well you are the researchers determining how it is doing today.

Vote Today

There are some elections where a few votes would not make much of a difference. Today’s election is not one of that type. The governor’s race is statistically tied. One area of disagreement is on taxes – the outcome is going to affect your wallet! If you want to learn more about the candidates, check out their websites. You can also check out for more information on Gov. Pat Quinn, neither of the other two candidates responded to the questionnaire.

Then vote by 7pm tonight.

Stopping Sex Trafficking

According to WBEZ thousands of girls and boys are trafficked into the sex trade each year in Chicago. World-wide, this number jumps to between 600,000 to 2 million children and young adults. Luckily, the tide may be beginning to ebb in Illinois. The state has decriminalized prostitution and then shifted law enforcement resources to catching the pimps who capture these vulnerable people. For more on that check my earlier post on International Chicago.

And now another great positive for Illinois, we are hosting Safe Conference. This international conference is bringing experts to the Chicagoland area to help devise better solutions and cooperation. It is survivor-focused showing how victims can have agency in their lives and help others. I wish the conference all the best.

Understanding the Developing World

The world seems to be getting more complex by the minute, so I am excited to announce that I will be teaching a class this Spring to bring some clarity! See below:

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PSC 280 W01 (16 weeks online) CRN#65065

PSC 280 Non-Western Comparative Politics

Over the next decade, it is expected that the non-Western world will account for the majority of global GDP growth. This course will bring students into the political systems of some of these rising tigers such as China, Mexico, Iran, and Nigeria. You will learn a lot as we compare these countries’ revolutions, politics, economies, and their effects on the United States.

Registration begins November 1st.

The challenging road of referenda in Illinois

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Somewhere in the throws of taking care of my infant son, I missed the circuit court’s decision to declare the Redistricting Amendment unconstitutional. As you may recall, I went over its advantages and disadvantages (mainly that it doesn’t apply to Congressional District Boundaries) right here. While this would have been a good measure to send to voters in the fall, its of course necessary that the proposed amendment stand up to constitutional scrutiny. With new information in hand, I expect the amendment to reappear slightly changed on a future ballot. After all, if passed it wouldn’t take affect until the 2020 Census anyway – we got time!

Al Qaeda Paid For By Europeans

Thanks to ground-breaking journalism at the New York Times, we now know that Al Qaeda has been funded to the tune of over $125M by European diplomats. Supposedly for humanitarian aide, the money was actually used to pay ransoms for German and other European nationals held captive.

Why should we care? For one thing, this is totally against the rules. ‘You don’t negotiate with terrorist’ must have become passe – left only to movies and Americans. But more importantly, it has made travel by foreigners far more dangerous. Remember the old adage, “When you give a mouse a crumb, he’ll want the whole cookie?” When I was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in 2008, I felt no qualms traveling by land through Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, and Ghana. Other than a few folks interested in a donation or selling me a good, the local people usually kept to themselves. Now, a determined minority sees foreigners as huge dollar signs. Because these kidnappings have been so successful, businessmen, Peace Corps volunteers, and missionaries are now at a much higher risk of falling into this dangerous business of Al Qaeda. It is quickly turning MENA into a zone off-limits for safe travel by Westerners.

Finally, I wonder what nasty toys these terrorists can buy on the black market for $125M? I shudder to think about how frequently these items will go off against innocent civilians or how it might strengthen ISIS’s hold in Iraq/Syria.

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