Since it first convened two decades ago, the Group of 20 summit has been regarded as a forum for developed and developing countries to take collective action against economic uncertainties.

Now, as Japan prepares to host the summit for the first time, multilateralism and global collectivism have faced headwinds, especially regarding the backbone of economic growth: trade.

The United States is retreating from its role as a champion of multilateral trade as populism and nationalism surge. The U.S. and China are locked in a battle over trade and have imposed tariffs on each other's goods. The World Trade Organization is failing to keep up with rapid technological changes, critics say, bringing its effectiveness into question.