MONTREAL — The man hoping to be Britain’s next prime minister said the U.K. needs to “wean itself off” China “when it comes to trade, commerce and technology.”

Speaking to Anne McElvoy, the host of POLITICO’s new Power Play podcast, Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “We need to be absolutely clear about the security of the U.K. and issues like spying and interference which goes on and of course the human rights abuses that are taking place.”

“How do we wean ourselves off Chinese influence across the world?” Starmer asked. “There are big questions that progressive governments could face together.” However, he acknowledged that it was impossible to “distance ourselves” completely from China on big-ticket issues like climate change.

Attending a conference of like-minded leaders on the center-left in Montreal, Starmer warned that progressive leaders need to be “acutely alert” to the possibility of Donald Trump returning to the White House and taking a more conciliatory approach to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

“Obviously there’s a great deal of concern in Ukraine about that possibility,” Starmer said. “And I think we all need to be alive to it, and that’s why it’s very important that progressives hold together in difficult circumstances.”

The Labour leader revealed that his team is having talks with U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, but Starmer said he hasn’t yet received an invitation to meet the American leader. Pressed by McElvoy on what he thought of the prospect of a Trump victory in next year’s U.S. presidential election, Starmer replied: “It’s clear what my desired outcome would be, but the desired outcome may yield to a different outcome.”

He added that the former U.S. president he is most in contact with is Barack Obama, whom he speaks to “frequently.”

In a wide-ranging interview on his approach to global affairs, Starmer said one of his priorities would be “the restoration of the U.K. and its reputation on the world stage.” He said: “I feel very strongly that since Brexit, there’s been a sense that we’ve not just exited the EU, that we’ve somehow turned our back on the world and wherever you go people feel almost the absence of the U.K., once a leading voice, now rarely consulted.”

The inaugural edition of Power Play will be available here and on all podcast platforms on September 21.