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Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with U.S. President Barack Obama after a joint news conference in Washington on Feb. 4, 2011.Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will travel to Washington next week to talk one-on-one with President Barack Obama and to unveil a new Canada-U.S. border agreement.

The meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, comes two days before the heads of European Union states intend to get together to discuss their ongoing economic issues. Europe's woes will also undoubtedly be on the agenda in Washington.

But there is a full slate of issues that Mr. Obama and Mr. Harper, who met just last month at the summit of Pacific-rim leaders, could discuss.

Mr. Harper, who was in Burlington, Ont. on Friday to open an arts centre, said there are two issues on the joint security and economic agenda of the two countries. One, he said, is the border and perimeter initiative, and the other is Canada-U.S. Regulatory Co-operation Council.

"We are seeking ways of ensuring security in North America while at the same time making sure that we continue strong Canadian access to the American market," Mr. Harper told reporters. "Even with all of the problems that exist in the United States, this remains essential to our well-being at to our future prosperity."

Mr. Harper said he looked forward to talking about these things and others when he meets with Mr. Obama next week.

Another item the two men will probably want to discuss is the unfolding situation in Iran, where Tehran's nuclear weapons program has prompted world-wide concern and where the British embassy was, this week, subjected to a violent attack.

There is also the Keystone XL Pipeline project, which would bring oil-sands crude from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast for processing.

The Obama administration has imposed a potentially fatal delay on a multibillion-dollar oil pipeline between the two countries. But a bill introduced Wednesday by 37 Republican senators would require the administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days unless the president declares the project is not in the national interest.

Other irritants in the U.S.-Canada relationship include the Obama administration's decision to revive Buy American purchasing rules and a plan to raise more than $100-million from Canadian travellers with a $5.50 (U.S.) "passenger inspection fee."

But it is the border agreement that is expected to be the centrepiece of the visit. It will harmonize a plethora of regulations and safety standards in the automobile, food and other industries. It will make it easier to obtain temporary work permits and a trusted-traveler document that will allow frequent crossers to skip the lineup at Customs.

With a report from Associated Press

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