Beijing: China on Monday sought Bangladesh`s support in enhancing cooperation with SAARC countries while looking to expand ties with Dhaka in key areas including energy and infrastructure. Welcoming Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is on a state visit to China, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China attaches high importance to its relations with South Asian nations. He hoped Bangladesh would support China`s cooperation with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, comprising Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India besides Bangladesh. China, US among others are observers at the economic and geopolitical cooperation among the eight member nations. Li said China wants to expand bilateral cooperation with Bangladesh in areas including energy, communication, infrastructure, construction, technology, agriculture, ocean and disaster prevention, and relief. China will encourage companies to invest in Bangladesh and set up joint ventures, and hopes Bangladesh can provide support in this regard, the Chinese Premier said. He also called on the two nations to promote setting up of a joint rice research centre. Li said joint efforts were needed for an early harvest programme of the economic corridor along China, Bangladesh, India and Myanmar -- commonly known as the BCIM -- and push for the signing of a four-party pact this year to speed up the corridor construction, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Hasina said China is a trustworthy friend of Bangladesh, and thanked the Asian giant for its long-term assistance. It is a cornerstone of Bangladesh`s foreign policy to deepen the comprehensive cooperative partnership with China, she said. She welcomed Chinese companies and asked them to increase investment in Bangladesh and be a part of its infrastructure developemnt. She vowed to play a positive role in boosting relations between SAARC and China. This is Hasina`s third visit to China and the first since she was elected as prime minister for the second time in January.