The person behind 'forcing' Apple to change to USB-C port

When Alex Agius Saliba, a young Maltese politician, arrived in Brussels in 2019, he began looking for ways to make an impact and the first thing he did was target Apple.

Saliba, born in 1988, is one of the youngest officials of the European Parliament. As soon as he entered the parliament, he proposed a proposal to reduce electronic waste in the European Union (EU), which promoted unification of a common charging standard for electronic devices.

On June 7, 2022, standing in front of the European Parliament, Saliba took out a tangle of charging cables from the box. "Today, we will replace these types of charging ports with this one," he said, pointing to the USB-C cable. That was the day the European Union passed regulations requiring electronic devices sold in this market to use USB-C from 2024.

At that time, most smartphone manufacturers in the world had switched to port C, except Apple. "If Apple wants to continue marketing and selling products, they must comply with our rules," Saliba told the EU legislature. In a subsequent Facebook post, he emphasized "will not let Apple do what they want".

Illustration of Mr. Alex Agius Saliba holding a tangled charging cable in his hand and his solution is USB-C. Photo: WSJ

For more than two years, Apple continuously spoke out against it. Even though it has equipped USB-C on most of its products such as MacBooks and iPads, Apple still believes that regulations hinder innovation and cause inconvenience to more than one billion people using iPhones.

But in the end, the company had to go under water. "Obviously, we have to comply," Greg Joswiak, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, told the WSJ last year. "We have no other choice."

Europe's pressure on Apple is the latest example of the "Brussels effect" - a phrase coined by Anu Bradford, a Columbia Law School professor, to describe EU regulations affecting the world's global markets. any. Europeans believe they can do it better than anyone, even putting pressure on Silicon Valley - an ocean away from them. A quarter of Apple's revenue comes from Europe, giving the voice of EU regulators a lot of influence over the company's decisions.

Saliba said his mission is to "make a practical difference" in the lives of the people of Malta - a small island in the Mediterranean Sea with a total population of 520,000 people. However, while in the European Parliament, he wants legislation that will help people across Europe and "hopefully the rest of the world".

Before becoming a politician, Saliba was a journalist and lawyer. In fact, he loves Apple products , using a MacBook, iPad and Apple Watch, but not an iPhone because of the USB-C port. He said he rarely watches Apple's new product launches, but the event on September 12 did.

Mr. Alex Agius Frost. Yes: Times of Malta

Before Saliba had a seat in the European Parliament, the EU had been pursuing regulations on a common charging standard for about 20 years. Their biggest success was signing an agreement with Apple and electronics companies in 2009, which found a unified charging solution. Thanks to that, from 2009 to 2019, the number of charging port standards decreased from 30 to three, including microUSB, USB-C and Lightning.

The process "from three to one" is much more difficult. In 2018, European regulators said companies like Apple had failed to self-regulate in this direction and threatened to take action.

In 2020, Saliba and other members of the EU Parliament asked for legislation. His determination helped him be appointed to the position of rapporteur, specializing in negotiations and solutions to get the law passed. He even went to Silicon Valley to learn about the problems.

"I don't want to go to war with Apple," Saliba said. "But I believe big companies have never forced us to buy exclusive charging accessories, especially when there are other more flexible solutions on the market."

After the law was approved, Saliba drank beer to celebrate. Standing next to Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, he sent a message to Silicon Valley: "We are working for our people, not for anyone's benefit."

On September 12, Apple announced the iPhone 15 generation with a USB-C port, ending the existence of Lightning - the connection port launched on September 12, 2012 on iPhone 5.

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