Canada-EU strategic partnership agreement in final stages

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has concluded negotiations with Europe on a Strategic Partnership Agreement in The Hague, Netherlands on the margins of the Nuclear Safety Summit. The SPA will focus on political dialogue, as well as enhance policies relating to crisis management and security.

Will focus on political dialogue in areas including the Arctic, energy and security

Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, right, and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, centre, during the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is another step closer to cementing new bilateral relations with the European Union after he wrapped up negotiations on a Strategic Partnership Agreement in the Netherlands Monday morning.

In a statement released by the European Commission President Herman Van Rompuy and European Council President José Manuel Barroso, both Canada and Europe were finalizing the remaining technical and legal work so that the agreement "can be formally concluded as soon as possible."

"With the agreement, the EU and Canada have taken a crucial step forward in strengthening our strategic relations," the statement reads.

Harper met with Van Rompuy and Barroso in the margins of the Nuclear Safety Summit in The Hague, following bilateral trade talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and a question-and-answer session with representatives of the Dutch business community over the weekend.

The SPA is intended to enshrine the EU and Canada's joint values and strengthen political dialogue and cooperation in a number of areas, including education, transport, energy and the Arctic. 

In the midst of the crisis in Ukraine as well as talks to boot Russia from the G8, the SPA will also provide channels for Canada and the EU to enhance their foreign policy engagements when it comes to crisis management and security. 

Both sides have been in lockstep when it comes to issuing sanctions toward individuals in Ukraine and Russia for their involvement in the annexation of Crimea. 

Recent deal lowers import taxes

Harper recently signed the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with the 28-member European Union to open markets and drop nearly all import taxes on a wide range of foods. 

"This is a big deal. Indeed, this is the biggest deal our country has ever made," Harper said after signing CETA in Brussels last October. "This is a historic win for Canada."

The agreement is currently being finalized.

In the meantime, G7 leaders are expected to meet today in The Hague to discuss suspending Russia from the G8. 

Members of G7 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the United States — have already pledged to boycott the June G8 summit to be held in Sochi, Russia in response to the occupation of Crimea. 

European leaders have also announced they would scrap an EU-Russia summit.